Week 8 Matchups, X-Factors for 49ers
The 49ers and Panthers are a combined 12-2 this season and a combined 8-0 in their last four games combined.
Interestingly, the key matchup will be their star offensive weapon against the linebackers of both teams.
Christian McCaffrey vs. 49ers Linebackers
The Carolina offense runs (no pun intended) through Christian McCaffrey. Not just as a runner, but as a receiver as well.
The 49ers defensive line should help to contain McCaffrey in the ground game, but he still can make an impact as a receiver. It’ll be up to the linebackers to contain any possible damage he can do in the passing game and force Kyle Allen to look elsewhere.
San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle vs. Panthers Linebackers
What was said above for McCaffrey goes for George Kittle also.
It’s not a secret the 49ers passing game goes through Kittle, primarily. Jimmy Garoppolo does a good job of spreading the ball to different receivers, but it’s Kittle he looks for when he needs a big play quickly.
If the Panthers can contain Kittle and his presence as the No. 1 receiving target for San Francisco, they’ll take a big weapon out of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s bag of tricks.
Kyle Allen vs. Nick Bosa and Dee Ford
Allen has been really careful with the ball, but as mentioned before he has had six fumbles in his four starts.
In short, Allen is taking care of the ball when he throws it but not when he’s holding it.
This is music to the ears of the 49ers EDGE duo, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, who have combined for 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year.
Ford is a master of knocking the ball out of the hands of quarterbacks, while Bosa has been a monster on the blindside. Both could take full advantage of Allen and his fumbling issues, and could be the difference for the 49ers.
Key Playoff Game
The Niners are looking to keep their 1.5 game divisional buffer over the Seahawks, while the Panthers are desperately trying to keep pace with the 6-1 New Orleans Saints.
A win sees the team claim a big scalp and stay in their current position, a loss could see the 49ers division lead cut almost to nothing or the Panthers lose more ground to the dominant Saints.
Make no mistake, both teams are desperate to win even more than your average game.