3 reasons why the Carolina Panthers could lose to the 49ers

The Carolina Panthers open the season against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. On the surface, this game sounds like an easy win for the Panthers. After all, the 49ers were dismantled a year ago at Bank of America Stadium 46-27. Carolina nearly served up a 50 burger to the 49ers in the last 2016 game that made any Panthers fan feel good about their season. Sadly, that was week 2.

But that was last year. This year the Panthers are healthy. Their offense is evolved. All systems go, right?

Not so fast. Here are 3 reasons why the Carolina Panthers could lose to the San Francisco 49ers and bring an early end to the 2017 optimism.

The Great Unknown

Last year I tried to warn everyone about how the Panthers perform against unknown commodities. Then, it was Broncos QB Trevor Siemian who performed unexpectedly (by some) well against the Panthers defense.

This year it is the entire San Francisco 49ers team that is largely an unknown, and that should worry you.

New 49ers head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is not exactly unfamiliar with the Carolina Panthers defense. Twice last season he was able to systematically pick them apart last year. Now he is hosting the Carolina Panthers in his first game as head coach with an entire offense that no one really knows anything about. If that doesn’t concern you, then you aren’t paying attention.

Simple Physics

Fact: You can’t kick field goals while looking over your shoulder.

Keeping two kickers on the Carolina Panthers is a big mistake by Panthers interim GM Marty Hurney. Such indecision does not inspire confidence in either kicker, it only lessens it. I understand the need to keep both kickers just in case Gano fails. But that is a decision made from weakness, which I am never a fan of.

Pick your guy and give him 100% of your support. Anything less only adds to the probability of a missed kick. And if that happens to cost the Carolina Panthers the game in San Francisco, Marty Hurney should already be on the hot seat.

Rusty Cam

No one wants to talk about it, everyone wants to assume the best. But Cam Newton missing most of training camp and preseason could have an impact on Sunday. Newton has not taken a full week’s worth of practice reps in 2017. He also hasn’t played more than one series or thrown more than a few passes in preseason. As such, the reality is that there likely be some rust for the former MVP to shake off.

Carolina Panthers season openers are almost always close. Even in 2015 in Jacksonville it was close, and that was the Carolina Panthers at their very best. If Newton has too much of that rust to shake off, it could be the difference in the outcome of the game.

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Jeremy Igo is owner of Carolina Huddle. Based in Charlotte, he has covered the Carolina Panthers for over a decade.