With a Win Over the 49ers, Are the Panthers Among NFC's Elite?

By Ryan Heckman
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought by week 10 we would be giving the Carolina Panthers a legitimate shot to knock off the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers? Yet, we stand here today and that’s exactly what we’re talking about. How has this intense matchup been made possible?


The Panthers have given up an average of 12 points a game during this four-game winning streak. The 49ers are supposed to be the ones with the elite defense, but Carolina is making a case for their defense being tops in the league. Carolina is allowing just 79.1 yards per game on the ground, good for 2nd in the entire league.

As far as the turnover differential goes, as a team the Panthers have seven interceptions and just one fumble lost compared to 12 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries by their defense. Passing-wise, Carolina is 10th in the league allowing just 220 yards per game. They are not number one in any of these categories, but being consistently great in all of them is why they’ve been so good.

They’re physical and they will beat you up — that’s why they are so good. Yet, still this defensive group continues to fly under the radar.

By my guess, that’s just fine with them. The Panthers still are not looked at as a huge threat in the NFC, but with a win over the 49ers they should be. The 49ers are tops int he league in rushing going against the 2nd-ranked run defense — could this matchup be any more intriguing?

Cam Newton is playing by far the best football of his career. He’s been efficient more than anything, which is something Panther fans are finally excited to see out of the third year pro. Against a normally-stifling San Francisco defense, Newton will have to be at his very best.

If these Panthers can somehow pull off a win against the number one rushing team in the league, they will absolutely be considered among the NFC’s elite at 6-3, having won five straight games at that point.

Ryan Heckman is a Senior Writer for RantSports.comFollow him on Twitter  @ryanmheckman, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.



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