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NFL Carolina Panthers

5 Carolina Panthers Who Will Shine Against San Francisco 49ers

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5 Carolina Panthers Who Will Shine

5 Carolina Panthers Who Will Shine Against 49ers
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Both the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers have been on tears lately, sporting a four-game and five-game win streak, respectively. Both teams have found their stride, but not by adding new parts. These teams have grown through reduction, shedding unnecessary baggage in favor of greater efficiency, and success. The 49ers have simplified their playbook to concentrate on their stellar rushing attack and concentrate the talents of Colin Kaepernick, while also playing without All-Pro Aldon Smith. The Panthers have also simplified their playbook, turning their offense into a methodical machine, while also doing away with the conservative style drew Ron Rivera so much criticism.

This game is critical for both teams, as their playoff and division championship hopes are hanging precariously in the balance. If the Panthers win, they inch closer to the New Orleans Saints and their first division crown since 2008, not to mention finally receiving the respect they deserve. Carolina has beat down opponents during their four game win streak, scoring over 30 points in each contest, but they have done so against sub-par competition. The 49ers are fighting to return to national spotlight after a slow start to the season, possibly the after-effects of a close Super Bowl loss.

Neither team wants to think about what will happen if they lose this game, with shadows of irrelevancy and inadequacy lurking among those thoughts. The Panthers are my pick to win because of their dominant defense, and those Panthers defenders will have a prime chance to show their worth on Sunday.

Here are the Panthers who shine in San Fran.

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Kawann Short

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Short has been outstanding in situational roles for the Panthers, showcasing the tremendous penetrating ability that had the Panthers salivating over him prior to the draft. Short will need to get inside pressure on Kaepernick to limit his running room and interrupt his rhythm, and Short certainly has the ability to do so.

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Star Lotulelei

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Of course, Short can't accomplish that unless Lotulelei plays well too. Lotulelei has been the perfect counterbalance to Shorts athleticism, a powerhouse in the middle that closes gaps and attracts double teams. The strength of the 49ers' offense is their offensive line, and it will be Lotulelei's job to neutralize them. While Lotulelei won't shine statistically, his unsung efforts will be the difference for the Panthers.

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Ted Ginn Jr.

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The Panthers will have difficulty finding room in the running game against San Fransisco's vaunted front-seven, so the passing game must be ready to carry the offense. The 49ers' defensive backs will be keying in on Steve Smith and Greg Olsen, so it will be up to former 49er Ted Ginn Jr. to bring a spark to the offense, both in the passing game and return game. If Ginn can find his way into the endzone at some point, the Panthers will most likely come out victorious.

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Mike Mitchell

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Anquan Boldin has been a revelation in the receiving game for the 49ers, and Vernon Davis is one of the best tight ends in the game, and it will be up to Mitchell to stem the tide. Mitchell needs to make sure neither Boldin nor Davis get open over the top, or it could be a long day for the Cardiac Cats. Mitchell has certainly shown the ability to do that, and his ball-hawking skills will certainly have a major effect on the game.

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Luke Kuechly

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Kuechly is by far one of the best linebackers in the league, and he will need to play at that level if the Panthers want to beat the 49ers. Kuechly will be asked to do more than most players should, slowing down the beast that is Frank Gore, spying the elusive Kaepernick, and even covering Davis down the seam. Kuechly is more than capable of standing his ground and delivering for the Panthers, but he will need to show on the field if the Panthers are going to win.