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NFL Playoffs: 49ers vs. Panthers – lines, odds and tips

Fri, Jan 10, 3:45pm by Ed Scimia

2013 - 2014 NFL SeasonMatch: San Francisco 49ers (13-4) vs. Carolina Panthers (12-4)
When & where: 5.00 am (AEST) Monday, January 13, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina

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FOR the second week in a row, the 49ers opened as a favourite on the road in the playoffs – a rare occasion in the NFL, where home-field advantage is typically king.

The line has been bet down to pick’em, meaning that all you have to do is pick the winner. But in a game between two similar and evenly matched teams, that’s not going to be an easy task.

49ers survive the cold

The 49ers are coming off a tough win in tough circumstances, as they travelled up to Green Bay to beat the Packers in frigid conditions. They did enough to survive and win a 23-20 decision, thanks in large part to the excellent play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 227 yards and added another 98 on the ground.

If the 49ers can win this game, they’ll be cementing themselves as the most successful NFC team over the past three years. It will put them in their third straight NFC Championship game, and give them a real chance to get back to a second straight Super Bowl.

Carolina powered by defence, Newton

The Panthers defence may have their hands full with Kaepernick and the rest of the San Francisco offense, but they’re certainly up to the task. Other than the Seattle Seahawks, no defence in the league gave up fewer points than Carolina’s. They were also second in the league in yardage allowed, and sacked opposing quarterbacks 60 times – the most in the NFL.

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers aren’t quite as formidable – but they’re not exactly pushovers, either. Quarterback Cam Newton may not be the most polished thrower in the league, but he’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks around, capable of beating opponents with both his arm and his legs. In fact, Newton both threw and ran for more yards and touchdowns than Kaepernick, while completing a higher percentage of passes, which suggests that maybe the focus should be on how San Francisco is going to stop him.

Our betting tips

This game is actually a rematch of a regular season match between these two teams. As expected, that meeting was a defensive struggle, with both sides finding it hard to move the ball. But in the end, that game saw Carolina edge the 49ers 10-9 thanks to a fourth quarter field goal from Graham Gano.

Carolina has an additional advantage this time around: while that first match took place in San Francisco, they’ll be playing at home today. If the 49ers want to win, they’ll need a much better game from Kaepernick, who threw for a paltry 46 yards last time around. Carolina would like to do more on offense themselves – they only had 250 total yards for the game – but the real pressure is on San Francisco to prove they can put up points against the stingy Panthers defence.

In the final analysis, I believe the Panthers are the team to beat. Were the game in San Francisco, I think the betting decision would be much tougher, but the home field advantage should swing things enough to make Carolina the much better play. It’ll be a close game, and it’ll be a low scoring game, and there’s certainly no reason to feel like the Panthers are an absolute lock to win – but they’re absolutely the smart bet for punters here.

Prediction: Carolina 17, San Francisco 14
Picks: Carolina (PK), Under 42

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