The San Francisco 49ers are rolling along as one of two undefeated teams in the NFL, and are set to face a fairly hot Carolina Panthers squad in Week 8. The Panthers have won four straight since Kyle Allen replaced an injured Cam Newton. Allen was key in the first game against Arizona, and has made some big plays, but he’s no Cam Newton. The defense and Christian McCaffrey have been the big reasons for the Panthers streak.
The 49ers come into this game with their strongest defense in years, and one of the best in the league. The pass rush is dominant, the front seven is looking great against the run, and the secondary has outperformed most people’s expectations. On the offensive side of the ball, the ground game is playing great behind an offensive line that has seen injury replacements step up in a big way.
San Francisco is currently a six-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook. You can find 5.5 points at other sportsbooks, but there’s not a ton of other variance. Early public money backed the 49ers, but the public is now leaning Panthers.
I’ve been trying to figure out my pick on this one and have gone back and forth. People I respect in the picking business think the Panthers give the 49ers some trouble and keep this thing within the number. The Panthers defensive weakness is against the run, where they rank 30th in efficiency. On the other hand, they rank second in takeaways, and Jimmy Garoppolo has shown a propensity for some bone-headed decisions. Having the second-ranked adjusted sack rate likely helps create some bad decisions.
On the other side of the ball, their offense ranks 14th in rushing efficiency and 22nd in passing efficiency. The big problem has been in pass protection. Carolina’s offensive line ranks 22nd in adjusted sack rate, while the 49ers pass rush is No. 1 in that category. Given Kyle Allen’s own propensity to cough up the ball, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and DeForest Buckner could create some serious problems.
Turnovers are going to make or break this game. Kyle Allen has had some solid moments, but he’s had enough problems that I could see them coming to fruition in a big way against this 49ers defense. The Panthers four-game win streak has included road wins against Arizona and Houston, a home win against Jacksonville, and a London win over Tampa Bay. Not exactly a murderers row of defenses this year.
Christian McCaffrey is a serious wild card in this one. The 49ers rank 12th against the run and second against the pass. If the front seven can handle their business, they should be able to at least contain McCaffrey.
Carolina has the defense to make this interesting, but I really think we see Kyle Allen have a miserable afternoon at Levi’s Stadium, so I’ll lay the points.
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