Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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Divisional New Orleans at Seattle 4:35 PM San Francisco at Carolina 1:05 PM
*UPDATED  Indianapolis at New England 8:10 PM San Diego at Denver 4:40 PM

Prediction: SF 20, CAR 16 (Line: SF by 2)

Update: Steve Smith proclaimed himself at 89 percent, shortly after he admitted to randomly picking numbers to assess his health. Either way he'll play, though his knee injury may limit him. The 49ers will likely be without cornerback Carlos Rogers, who is listed as questionable but did not practice all week.

This is a replay of week 10 when the Panthers won 10-9 in San Francisco. The 49ers are a good road team with a 7-2 mark so far but the Panthers are 7-1 at home and already won this one on the road. But even the Vegas line doesn't believe that week 10 means that much coming into this one with the 49ers sporting an improved team and the Panthers showing up as a newbie to the post season. Chances this is a lower scoring game is very high and one that will be won as much by not making mistakes as by sterling play.

Weather should not be a factor there and both defenses have held opponents under 24 points in almost every game this year. The Panthers are #2 with only 241 points allowed in the regular season. The 49ers rank #3 with just 271 given up.

The most common result of this week is that three home teams win and just one road team does. And this is the only game where the road team is favored.

1 GB 34-28 10 CAR 9-10
2 @SEA 3-29 11 @NO 20-23
3 IND 7-27 12 @WAS 27-6
4 @STL 35-11 13 STL 23-13
5 HOU 34-3 14 SEA 19-17
6 ARI 32-20 15 @TB 33-14
7 @TEN 31-17 16 ATL 34-24
8 @JAC 42-10 17 @ARI 23-20
9 BYE WEEK 18 @GB 23-20
News | Statistics | Roster
San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Colin Kaepernick 60 - 240,1
RB Frank Gore 50,1 3-20 -
TE Vernon Davis - 4-50,1 -
WR Michael Crabtree - 5-80 -
WR Anquan Boldin - 5-50  
PK Phil Dawson 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Although the 49ers never see freezing temperatures at home, they played through the frigid conditions in Green Bay better than the Packers did. As would be expected, the rushing effort was prominently displayed but Frank Gore was held to only 66 yards on 209 carries and scored once. Colin Kaepernick was the difference maker with 98 yards on seven runs including one 42-yard scamper.

But the Nines were able to pass despite the harsh temperatures. Michael Crabtree reeled in eight catches for 125 yards while Vernon Davis scored once in his two receptions for 37 yards. Throw in Anquan Boldin with three catches for 38 yards and the 49ers passed better than Rodgers and the Packers. The addition of Crabtree cannot be undervalued and he was not a part of the first meeting with the Panthers.

That first meeting with the Panthers was at home and they lost. But it was a game where neither team did much offensively and the second half was scoreless save for the winning field goal by the Panthers. That game was very much unlike all others for the 49ers who were coming off their bye week and had been scoring 30+ points for five straight weeks prior to running into that buzz saw.

Kaepernick only passed for 91 yards and one interception (at the very end of the game). Boldin only caught three passes for 23 yards and Vernon Davis was held to only one catch. There is no denying that the Panthers defense is not outstanding but this time around it will be Crabtree instead of Mario Manningham which is a major upgrade. These are actually two similar teams other than the quality of their receivers.

The Panthers have never allowed more than one passing score in Carolina though four teams passed for over 250 yards. They are also great against the run with just one rushing score allowed to visitors and never more than 83 rush yards. In fantasy terms, there is not likely to be more than moderate stats by any 49er player and an even bigger risk they will turn in abysmal stats than anything significant. The Panthers have been preparing to face the 49ers who they already played. That at least suggests that the 49ers have to bring something different to the party than what they did in week ten. That is likely more passing and having Kaepernick run more.

Any receiving score will heavily favor Davis since the Panthers allowed nine scores to the position this year. Only five wideouts scored on them and just one in Carolina.

Gaining Fantasy Points SF 16 19 31 7 6 9
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 2 6 3 19 10 4


1 SEA 7-12 10 @SF 10-9
2 @BUF 23-24 11 NE 24-20
3 NYG 38-0 12 @MIA 20-16
4 BYE WEEK 13 TB 27-6
5 @ARI 6-22 14 @NO 13-31
6 @MIN 35-10 15 NYJ 30-20
7 STL 30-15 16 NO 17-13
8 @TB 31-13 17 @ATL 21-20
9 ATL 34-10 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 30 - 190,1
RB DeAngelo Williams 40 3-20 -
RB Jonathan Stewart 20 - -
TE Greg Olsen - 3-30,1 -
WR Steve Smith - 5-50  
WR Brandon LaFell - 3-40 -
WR Ted Ginn Jr. - 2-20 -
PK Graham Gano 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Panthers enter this week rested and all the pieces are there on defense. That has been the saving grace for the Panthers all year considering the struggles that Carolina had in past games when faced against a really good defense. There is nothing special about the rushing effort here that ranks well below average despite using two or three backs in every game. Jonathan Stewart may play this week for the first time since tearing his MCL in week 14 but even if he does suit up it will be a minor role at best.

The passing game is more worrisome since Steve Smith said there is a 60% chance that he can play this week. This is a worse unit than the running backs already and Smith is clearly the only receiver with even moderate talent though this entire season has never produced any game with more than 69 yards for him and he actually had a season high six catches in San Francisco that gained 63 yards with no scores. Without Smith as a weapon the passing game shrinks even further with Greg Olsen being the next best option but he only managed one catch for 17 yards in the previous meeting.

Smith would not be much of a fantasy start this week regardless of his health but at least his presence helps the offense. The receivers are clearly the weak spot in this offense that is predicated mostly on Cam Newton throwing just enough to keep the offense going and then mixing in his own runs that often exceed what the running backs are able to contribute.

Newton passed for 169 yards and no scores in San Francisco. Worse yet, he ran for only 15 yards on eight attempts. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 46 yards on eight runs but his entire day was salvaged by the 27-yard sprint up the middle for the lone touchdown when the 49ers were caught out of position. Otherwise it was a much more normal seven runs for 19 yards.

The Panthers are going to win this by limiting the 49ers scoring and not by running up their own score. They only faced three teams with very good defenses - Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco. And each time they only scored ten points or less.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 6 23 25 15 19 7
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 3 9 9 13 1 1

Divisional New Orleans at Seattle 4:35 PM San Francisco at Carolina 1:05 PM
*UPDATED  Indianapolis at New England 8:10 PM San Diego at Denver 4:40 PM

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