I'm a big believer of the 49ers, and have been since the preseason. I've got money on them to go Over with their win total, and think they have a good chance to represent the NFC in February.
As good as New England is, I think the Niners are just as balanced on both sides of the ball, and that's where they'll get the best of these Panthers. I know Carolina is off a bye week, but traveling into hostile territory, from one coast to the other, is going to be tough.
You saw how tough the 49ers had it last week in D.C., right? San Francisco won 9-0 over Washington, but I'm not holding that against the 49ers, who had to play in yucky weather. Yes, I used the word yucky.
What continues to work for San Francisco is its pass defense, which will get to young Kyle Allen, who was named the starting quarterback on Monday.
The Niners stifled Washington's Case Keenum to just nine completions and 77 total yards passing while registering three sacks for 27 yards. It was the second straight game the Niners have allowed 50 or fewer net yards passing.
On the other hand, I expect Jimmy Garoppolo to throw the ball better than he did last week, when he was dealing with rainy conditions and wet footballs. Garoppolo finished just 12 for 21 for 151 yards with an interception on a fourth-down pass in the third quarter.
He'll need balance from his running game since Carolina's strength on defense is stopping the pass, and it leads the league with 27 sacks.
That shouldn't be a problem, as the Niners have the best rushing game in the NFC and second-best in the league, averaging 172.7 yards per game, while scoring eight touchdowns on the ground.
By controlling the tempo with a horizontal game to wear down Carolina's defense, and stuffing the Panthers on offense, the 49ers will pull away for the win and cover.