Each season there’s a team that gets hot at the right time. This team usually heats up as the regular season comes to a close and they sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The San Francisco 49ers are not that team. They’re the team that’s been flying under the radar all season long. Despite winning 12 games and clinching a playoff berth for the third straight year, no one has been talking about the Niners making another run to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers picked up some very solid momentum last weekend in the Wild Card round with their defeat of the Green Bay Packers. Going on the road to Lambeau is never an easy task, especially in the freezing cold in the playoffs. But after a hard-fought game, the Niners came out on top and earned themselves a date with the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers aren’t your normal two seed. This has been made clear by the oddsmakers, who feel that Carolina (+1) is actually the underdog in this divisional round matchup. It might sound a little crazy, but I completely agree with their assessment. The reason? Experience.
Yes, Colin Kaepernick is only in his second season as the 49ers’ quarterback. But we all know that he’s not your average QB. The 26-year old has already started in four playoff games and he nearly led his team to the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history last February. Cam Newton on the other hand, will be starting his first ever playoff game. He’s not your normal third-year QB, either, but there’s something to be said for his lack of experience. Starting your first playoff game is a really big deal.
Unlike last weekend, the weather won’t be a factor in Carolina this Sunday. The forecast is calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50s. This game simply won’t be impacted by the weather. But it will be impacted by the experience of the 49ers.
That’s going to be the difference in this game. While Kaepernick is far from a seasoned veteran, his three games from last postseason and his victory over Aaron Rodgers last weekend will prove to be huge. On top of that, he’s got proven winner Anquan Boldin to throw to, all while Michael Crabtree is hitting his stride this season. Also, don’t sleep on Vernon Davis after his two-catch perfomance in the Wild Card round.
The San Francisco offense is going to put up enough points to give its defense the breathing room it needs. Newton is going to make some plays and he’ll make things interesting. But overall, he and the Panthers are going to be a little out of their element. I’m predicting a close game throughout, but that the 49ers will pull away in the fourth quarter. You just can’t overlook how much postseason experience means in these big games. Especially, when you’re talking about the coaches. Jim Harbaugh has a clear advantage over Ron Rivera in this divisional round matchup.
Prediction: San Fran rides a solid outing from its stout defense and Kaepernick to a third straight NFC Championship game.