The Super Bowl is still weeks away but the San Francisco 49ers are the team that I believe is the most arsenal to represent the NFC at Met Life Stadium in February. It will not be an easy task, but if all facets of the team are rolling, it will be difficult to stop the 49ers from making a trip to East Rutherford.
The first challenge for the San Francisco 49ers is this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. Although both teams seem to have many similarities, it is the Niners who have more intangibles. Both teams have dynamic playmakers at the quarterback position with Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton at the helm for their respective teams. They come from a new generation of quarterbacks who can give defensive coordinators nightmares when they move outside of the pocket and use their legs. What is different about these quarterbacks when compared to the mobile quarterbacks of old is their gun slinging ability. Not only did they both rush for over 500 yard, but these quarterbacks threw for over 3,000 yards for the season.
The Green Bay Packers are all too familiar with this as Kaepernick has torched them with his legs, arms and most recently with a combo of the two to go a perfect 3-0 within a year. The Carolina defense is nowhere near as inept the Packers defense. The Panthers are ranked second in total defense and in the top 10 in the other defensive categories. They are led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Luke Kuechly who finished the season 156 tackles and two sacks. Kuechly has proven he can make big plays when in the red zone.
The San Francisco 49ers defense is no push over either. They finished the season fifth in total defense and also rank within the top 10 in the other defensive categories. Their middle linebacker is twice as strong as the Panthers as they have NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis manning the middle of the field. Not to mention they have two dominant pass rushers in Justin Smith and Aldon Smith to wreak havoc on any quarterback. The 49ers front seven is one of the best in the league and their secondary is not terrible either.
These two teams epitomize what football used to be and where it is going all in one. Powerhouse defenses that can stop you in multiple ways with a new innovative dynamic offense that can score at will. What will that result look like?
Well in week 10 it looked like a 10-9 win for Carolina.
At the end of the day defenses still win championships and that score summarizes it all perfectly. A true dominant defense can stop any offense regardless of system which leads me to the intangibles that will allow the 49ers to go to the Super Bowl. Intangibles are something that many people take for granted when making predictions on teams. For me, intangibles outweigh all the statistics you can pile up, it is what truly makes sports such a rush.
The San Francisco 49ers have one thing on their mind; to reach the Super Bowl. They got a taste of what that is like last year. They even came an end zone catch away from altering the outcome. They know what it feels like, and they have proven they are not satisfied just getting there. During the process of getting to your destination you need some fuel. The best fuel there is in sports is getting revenge on a team that has already beaten you.
The Panthers and 49ers duked it out during week 10 of the regular season with the 49ers losing by a point at home. Defeat never feels good, but when you lose at home it is a gut wrenching feeling. The 49ers will come out with a lot to prove this Sunday against the Panthers. I expect Colin Kaepernick to have another combo game as he seems to play at his best when uses both attributes. The 49ers have already proven they can win on the road, even in the toughest of conditions.
If San Francisco does get past the Panthers this weekend, they will have another tank of gas ready to fuel them regardless of who comes out of the other NFC match-up. Both the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks have beaten the 49ers this season. The 49ers would love to host a NFC championship game if they were to face the New Orleans Saints, but nothing would have them floating on cloud nine to the Super Bowl like beating a hated rival in the Seahawks on the road.