With a trip to New Orleans looming in Week 11, the 49ers are set face a red hot Carolina Panthers team that has won four straight games. San Francisco, who is coming off of their bye, is just as hot and will look to continue their winning ways. Have the Panthers arrived as a legitimate force in the NFL or can the Niners knock them back down the earth? Here are some things to look for in Week 10.
Cam turning a corner
Cam Newton seems to have matured as a quarterback and is doing an excellent job of managing his team to victories. In the Panther’s five wins, Newton is 96-of-139 (69 percent) for 1139 yards and 10 touchdown passes. He has only been intercepted three times and has four rushing touchdowns. In Carolina’s losses, Newton has struggled. He is 58-of-100 (58 percent) for 662 yards and has four interceptions to only three touchdown passes. He has not scored a rushing touchdown in those games. For the 49ers to win in Week 10, they must do a good job containing Newton and forcing him to make mistakes.
The 49ers will be as close to whole roster wise as they have been all season. Mario Manningham and Tank Carradine will be making their season debuts after being activated off the PUP list over the bye week. San Francisco will also get Aldon Smith back from a mandatory leave of absence to help boost a struggling pass rush. Despite missing the last five games, Smith still leads the team with 4.5 sacks. While these players will eventually pay dividends, one has to wonder if it might take some time for them to get back up to speed with the NFL game. In Carradine’s case, it will be the rookie’s first professional action.
Somethings got to give
The 49ers have the most prolific running game in the league. Through nine weeks, San Francisco leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (153) and rushing touchdowns (15). On the other side of the ball will be a Panther’s defense that is only allowing 79 yards on the ground a game and opponents have only managed two rushing touchdowns all season. Overall, Carolina leads the NFL in total defense with only 2399 yards allowed over eight games. Something will have to give as the strengths of both teams will go head to head.
Who have they beat?
The Panthers are playing great football right now, outscoring opponents 130-48 during their four game winning streak. While the team has been impressive and can only play who is on their schedule, the competition level has been a factor in their recent success. To date, the Panthers last four opponents have a combined record of 6-27. Overall, Carolina’s five victories have come against teams who are currently a combined 8-33. Beating a 6-2 San Francisco squad on the road would go a long way in making a case for the Panthers as a legitimate top tier NFL team.