By Jerrell Richardson
The Panthers and 49ers both finished the regular season with the same record, have a solid offense and a top tier defense. So it’s no surprise that there is no clear favorite heading into this game, and after a few changes, the odds makers have the 49ers as 2 point favorites. This is despite the fact that San Francisco is going on the road and playing a Carolina team that not only beat the 49ers in week 10, but did it at Candlestick.READ MORE: Lucas Raymond Helps Red Wings Beat Penguins 3-2 In SO
When did The odds determine pressure?
In response to odds, Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera said, “Being the underdog I guess takes pressure off us and puts pressure on them. Now they have expectations for them. But we’re at home. We’re going to come out, show up and do the best we can.”
Not only is Rivera wrong, but his words and attitude show that Carolina might not be preparing for this game with the right mindset. First off, the betting line did not all of a sudden put more or less pressure on either team. Secondly, if the Panthers just want to come out and play well without the mentality that they have something to prove, then they will be in for a rude awakening if in fact they do lose.
Carolina can’t lose
After four games, the Panthers looked dead in the water at 1-3. Since that time, Carolina has been one of the hottest teams in football, losing just one game the rest of the way while beating three Super Bowl contenders in the 49ers, Patriots and Saints. The team’s impressive season secured them a Division Title, a first round bye and a lot of pressure to not be one-and-done this postseason. This is the NFL, where success is measured in playoff wins, not impressive regular seasons.
If Carolina is unable to win a single playoff game, after the year they had its no question it would be a major disappointment. Not to mention the franchise has not been in the playoffs since 2008, so it’s not as though they are confident that they can make it back.
Not only must they win, but the Panthers will also have to play well. They are the new kids on the block and still need to prove that they belong above all else. A poor performance will put them back at square one and an offseason that would have to figure out what the team needs to fix. Add to all of this a frenzied fan home crowd that will be quick to display their displeasure if their team goes out and lays an egg, and it’s clear which team is under the most pressure this weekend.READ MORE: Frick Park Bridge Collapse: 10 People Injured, 4 Sent To Hospital
49ers reaching for lofty goals
The only pressure on the 49ers is self-imposed, and due to making it to the Super Bowl last year. While no fan or player will be content without a Super Bowl berth, after going to Green Bay and beating Aaron Rodgers and Crew, San Francisco continues to prove that they aren’t going anywhere. This is a team built to win year in and year out. No matter what happens Sunday, the 49ers are Super Bowl contenders for years to come, and this can’t be said for the Panthers.
If there is any team playing with no pressure it’s the 49ers. Few teams can reach three straight Division Championship Games and even less can make it to back-to-back Super Bowls. The 49ers are attempting to join an elite few with each win they lock up this postseason, and the only question surrounding them is just how good they can be.
49ers will be ready, will Panthers?
If the Panthers approach this game with the mentality that they have nothing to lose, they will not beat the playoff-tested 49ers. Carolina will need to ignore the words of their coach and realize what is in front of them. Based on his comments, Rivera didn’t want the pressure on his team, and as he doesn’t want any additional weight on the shoulders of most of his players who have never played in the postseason. While his concerns are valid, it’s not a good sign for the home team that their coach is already worried about how they will respond in one of the biggest games of most of their careers.
For more news and updates about the NFL Playoffs, visit NFL Playoffs Central.
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.MORE NEWS: At Site Of Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse, President Joe Biden Promises To 'Fix Them All'
Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.