The 49ers come into this game after an impressive last-second win over the Packers on the road, and now they have to travel even further east, this time to Carolina. The NFL Odds have the Panthers as +2 underdogs at home, with a total of 42. These two teams met once this season in San Francisco, and the Panthers won a dogfight game 10-9, back in Week 10.
While the Niners have gotten back some key pieces missing from that game, heading across the country even in the playoffs is going to be a challenge for the Niners. If the Panthers’ defense can stop the run in this game, that may just be the formula to winning it outright. The Panthers have been very good against the Niners throughout the last ten years, covering their last five games in a row against the Niners. The Panthers have also been very god overall against the Niners ATS, covering their last five games overall against them.
Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense is wildly undervalued both this season and in this game. Steve Smith looks to be returning from his PCL sprain this week, and as long as he puts in some practice this week, he should take the field. The Panthers are possibly one of the most balanced teams left in either conference when it comes to offense and defense, and I see it getting them to the NFC Title game.
My Pick: Panthers +100
The NFL Odds have the Chargers as +9 or even +10 underdogs this week heading into Denver, with the largest total of the weekend at 55. Denver and San Diego split their first two meetings this season, both winning on one another’s field. This week I see the Chargers as once again undervalued, as long as they are healthy for this game.
Ryan Matthews basically didn’t play the 2nd half win against the Bengals after apparently reaggravating his ankle injury. The Chargers haven’t released anything on his status or the true nature of his injury, but if he can’t go, it might spell the end for the Chargers. Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead are great compliments, but the Chargers really need a duel-threat tail back that is capable of taking on linebackers, and Brown and Woodhead are just not that. Matthews went off on the Broncos in the Chargers’ win in Denver, as he racked up 127 yards and a touchdown. As long as he plays, I think the Chargers are the play.
Ten points is a lot in a divisional game, but it just continues the trend of the Chargers being undervalued over the final third of the season. San Diego has a better defense than the Broncos at this point in the season, and as long as Matthews can give them carries this weekend, the Chargers own the better running game. Make sure you track his status during practices starting today, but as long as Matthews puts in practice on Friday, I see him playing and the Chargers covering.
My Pick: Chargers +9 ½