CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It is here, ladies and gentlemen. The end of the long cold offseason is upon us. The Carolina Panthers are set to square off against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Here are five things I am fairly certain that will transpire this weekend.
Is Cam Newton really ready for action? Yes, kind of. Ron Rivera did say yesterday that there are no limitations on play calling as far as Newton is concerned. That was more for the San Francisco 49ers’ ears, however. Rivera wants them to know that the deep ball could come at any time during the game. But Carolina Panthers fans should temper their expectations with Newton.
Look for a run heavy offense that will limit the number of throws Newton makes. The Panthers will want to bring him in gradually over the next few weeks and not risk a sore shoulder causing him issues. A heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart early, and then plays featuring Christian McCaffrey applied liberally for the knockout punch. When Cam does pass the ball, quick slants or screens are on the menu. Much like we saw in Jacksonville.
Speaking of Christian McCaffrey, the rookie will have an impressive NFL debut as he rushes for 70 yards and tacks on another 60 as a receiver. 130 all purpose yards, but no touchdown yet. That will happen next Sunday in front of his new home crowd. McCaffrey will instantly be talked about and favored for offensive rookie of the year by the national media on Monday.
San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Brian Hoyer is in for a long afternoon. The Panthers defense is healthy and now has a secondary that is more of a strength than a weakness. Add in the fact that the Panthers are well versed in playing against Kyle Shanahan, and you can see why Sunday could be the day 49ers fans begin calling for rookie CJ Beathard to start.
Bonus: Hoyer will be picked off twice. Once by Kurt Coleman, once by Shaq Thompson. Keep it to yourself.
The Carolina Panthers still have two kickers on their roster, and that won’t change before Sunday. Graham Gano will have a good day in San Francisco, making four extra points and two field goals. Will this be enough for Marty Hurney to finally make a final decision on the two? Probably not, sadly enough.
Carolina Panthers v. San Francisco 49ers game prediction
In the end, the 49ers may be an up and coming franchise with an exciting new head coach, but they just don’t have the talent on the field at this point. The fact that Brian Hoyer is their starting QB is all the proof anyone should need to verify that claim. As such, the Carolina Panthers put them to bed before the start of the 4th quarter. I realize it is fashionable to predict close games, but this ain’t one of them.
I calls’em like I sees’em.
Carolina Panthers – 34
San Francisco 49ers – 10