CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium. It's the first Panther playoff game since that 33-13 loss to Arizona to close out the 2008 season.
The Panthers defeated the 49ers back in Week 10 of the regular season, 10-9 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, but the Niners come in as one of the hottest teams in the league. San Francisco is currently riding a seven game winning streak.
Carolina knows they have to do a better job of making the most of the red-zone opportunities come Sunday,
"We've got to take what the defense gives us and make every opportunity count," said Running Back DeAngelo Williams.
Carolina has won 11 of its last 12, but San Francisco has the postseason experience.
The 49ers represented the NFC in last year's Super Bowl and they are looking to get back to the NFC Championship Game for the second straight season.
"We're up for the challenge, we got to come out and play our game and that's what we've been preparing for in practice," said Williams.
The Panthers have won two of the past three meetings in this series, but they haven't played since that 21-20 Division clinching win in Atlanta back on December 29th.
They'll need to shake off any rust from that first round bye quickly and start strong Sunday. It's a safe bet the Panthers will rely heavily on their crowd. The home field advantage Panther Nation has provided is a big reason that the team hasn't lost at home since the first weekend of the season and is 7-1 in 8 games this year at Bank of America Stadium.
"It's gonna be exciting, we know the fans are going to be jacked up and we are going to be ready to go," said Linebacker Thomas Davis.
Wide receiver Steve Smith is still somewhat of a question mark for Sunday's game. The Panthers all pro receivers has been hampered by a knee injury the last few weeks, but put his chances of playing against the Niners at 89 percent Friday afternoon.
Smitty admitted that he's just been throwing out random percentages all week long during his media briefings, designed to update everyone on his playing status.
There's almost no doubt that he'll play, but questions remain about his effectiveness against a very stingy 49er defense.
Kickoff is set for just after 1:00 Sunday.
The winner moves on to next weekend's NFC Championship game, where they will face top seeded Seattle.
The Seahawks beat the Saints 23-15 in the other Divisional Game Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.