San Francisco 49ers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SF +13/CAR -13
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The San Francisco 49ers come to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte to take on the defending conference champion the Carolina Panthers. Things didnít go well for the Panthers in the season opener, as they were beaten on Thursday Night Football in a Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos. They held a 10-point 4th-quarter lead and squandered it with a rookie QB leading the Broncos to a late win. With Graham Gano having a chance to win it, he missed a 50 yard FG. San Francisco, meanwhile, was a major surprise, upsetting the Los Angeles Rams, 28-0, in a wildly successful coaching debut for Chip Kelly on Monday Night Football.
The 21-20 loss to Denver was hard enough, as they had to relive some of the misery from last seasonís Super Bowl loss. In addition, they saw Cam Newton battered from pillar to post. He was hit about the head graphically on several occasions, as the refs only called it once, with that call wiped out by an offsetting Carolina penalty. Luckily for him and the team, they have a little extra time for wounds to heal. Still, that was an awfully-tough start to the season and a heartbreaking loss.
Panthersí receiver Kelvin Benjamin made a successful return to the Panthers, catching 9 balls for 91 yards. Thatís a positive development to help them approach the season with some optimism. Newton wasnít at his best in the road opener, going 18-for-33 with 194 yards with a TD and an interception. TE Greg Olsen also had 73 yards through the air, but that was about it for the Panthers, as receivers like Devin Funchess, Corey Brown, and others were held to very little. Jonathan Stewart wasnít able to break loose many runs and it was clear that the Denver defense looked a lot like the championship ďDĒ from last season. They are now back in their element and rested against a team that played on MNF.
The Panthersí defense wasnít all that bad, other than the fact that they werenít very adroit at stopping Denver in the last quarter. But there were some positive developments, with Thomas Davis and Bene Benwickere picking off passes and Shaq Thompson recovering a fumble. Luke Kuechly registered 10 tackles. Only so many accolades can be given, however, as they let Siemian be the hero in his first NFL start and they werenít terribly clutch late. Still, this is a defense that is a complete one and expecting them to recede would be a miscalculation. Most of the pieces that helped them become one of the more intimidating defenses over the past few season are still in place.
Itís also important to gauge the Panthersí urgency level. They won 15 games last year, made it to the Super Bowl, before coming up short at the end. This season came with big plans and those plans would be sullied a bit with an 0-2 start. Other than their last two games against Denver, there hasnít been much to criticize from this team going back to 2014. One should perhaps expect the Panthers to remind themselves and everyone else of that fact this week.
No one saw the Niners 28-0 MNF win over the Rams coming. Those who reserved judgment with the awful-looking 49ers thanked themselves later, as they looked a lot better. Still, some caution should be shown. Last season, they opened the season with a 20-3 win over the Vikings and then went on to not cover the spread for a month. It was a positive development for the teamómake no mistake. Any time you buck the point spread by more than 30 points, youíve done well. At the same time, the Rams seemed highly dysfunctional and itís hard to imagine a team they would have beaten playing the way they did.
The positive developments for San Fran were numerous in week one. Itís a good time, however, to temper the enthusiasm based on any one-game window of time. We learned last season what can happen when we take a weird week one result to heart. San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert was by no means on fire, but he was capable on 22-for-35 passing with 170 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Carlos Hyde was impressive with a pair of TD runs and some other good runs, while Shaun Draughn also ran one in. Aerially, Jeremy Kerley caught 7 balls, Quinton Patton caught 5, and Vance McDonald hauled in a touchdown grab.
With a week one shutout, the Ninersí defense gets a big thumbs-up for their performance. Itís not easy to keep a team with Todd Gurley off the board, but San Francisco looked like the ďDĒ from several years ago when they were contending for conference honors. Gurleyís longest run was a ten-yarder, as was held to 47 yards on 17 carries. The 49ers amped up the pressure on third downs, holding the Rams to 3-of-15 on conversion attempts. The Rams only managed 185 yards of total offense and most of what they tried failed. A few standouts from their near-glory period were effective on MNF, with NaVorro Bowman all over the field making plays and getting a pick and Ahmad Brooks notching a sack.
What looked like it might be a home-opening cakewalk now takes on a different light for the Panthers. Not many people would have said that the Panthers would lose and the Rams would win in week one. Thereís a lot of strange stuff that can happen in this league and if we donít stay on-point, new realities can form out of nowhere. We donít want to be slow to act and just go on some half-baked notion that the Panthers arenít as good now and the Niners caught fire with Chip Kelly. Still, on the short week against a team that played last Thursday, the Niners will have their hands full. Based on what we saw in week one, however, itís a little hard to take the Panthers right now and lay almost two TDs. Iíll take the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the San Francisco 49ers plus 13 points.
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