Some of you might be confused as to why San Francisco would be favored on the NFC divisional round spread after they lost to Carolina on their home turf in Week 10. Well I’ve got two words for you: Michael Crabtree. Actually, I have a couple hundred more words for you too.
Crabtree exploded with a full workload for the first time since the Super Bowl catching 8 passes for 125 yards, eviscerating the Packers’ opportunistic secondary last weekend. His mere presence creates a nightmare for opposing defenses. He may take away touches from Boldin and Vernon Davis, but I doubt that the offense cares.
All they need is to surround Colin Kaepernick with as many weapons as possible. That’s the whole point of this team, because when the ball is in his hands, Kaepernick is as deadly as any other quarterback in the NFL playoffs. But as we saw on Sunday, his accuracy is still spotty.
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He completed just 16-of-30 passes for 1 touchdown and fell victim to another insane interception courtesy of Tramon Williams that wasn’t entirely his fault. Even after an up-and-down performance for their quarterback, the Niners are standing as shallow road favorites against this NFC divisional round playoff spread and that says as much as you think it does. This team is really, really dangerous.
Where Kaepernick did more damage was on the ground, where he piled up 98 yards on just 7 carries. That’s the more indirect effect that Crabtree has on defenses, because safeties have to account for his speed and hope that linebackers can contain the elusive Kaepernick.
So if you’re going to bet on Carolina against this tight NFC divisional round playoff spread, you’re going to have to hope that their defense is better than they are on paper. And they’re actually really good on paper, ranking second overall in yards allowed (301.2) and points surrendered (15.1) along with rushing yards surrendered (86.9).
They’re fast, aggressive and relentless and as they proved against San Francisco’s trench defenders earlier this year, they can go up against even the best offensive line in the NFL and still get theirs. San Francisco has a great, grinding offense that offers some explosive parts but Carolina has proven downright nasty against those types of teams.
And if you’re going to blab on and on about a promising, mobile, quarterback who plays with a staggeringly effective defense, how can you possibly overlook Cam Newton in his first playoff game? Cam has been working towards this moment in his career for three years, earning it by learning how to be a better teammate, a stronger leader and a better overall quarterback and player. He wasn’t handed the keys to a Ferrari like Kaepernick was; Newton patiently created a mountain out of a crap hill.
I could divulge in to betting trends (which don’t favor either team), stats, the fact that this is a revenge game or whatever you’d like me to. But I honestly believe that Cam and these Panthers are the team to beat in the NFC. When games are this tight in real life and on the NFC divisional round playoff spread, you really can’t go wrong with either team. But I know what San Francisco is capable of in the playoffs, and while everything they bring to the table is promising, I am literally on the edge of my seat to see what the Panthers unleash on Sunday.