I don't post too often on here any more, but this has been a long week filled with a tremendous amount of speculation by the media, and I'm about tired of reading that the 49ers will be the ones to step up their play come Sunday. Yes, they played in the playoffs last season. But we are just as hot, if not hotter, heading into this game so I am failing to understand all of the hype in their favor.
First of all, we have been the better team in big games down the stretch this season.
In the final 8 games of the season, the 49ers were 2-2 in games against teams in the playoff hunt (any team that finished within one game of a playoff spot). They were 1-2 (0-1 on the road) versus teams that made the playoffs. This stretch of games includes a near disaster at home facing Atlanta. It also includes a home loss to the Panthers; a game that was dominated by the Panthers defense beyond what the score will tell you.
That brings us to the Panthers final stretch of games. Over the final eight games, they were 5-1 against teams in the playoff hunt (3-0 at home, 2-1 on the road). The one loss came to New Orleans, who was steaming following an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Seattle. During this stretch, the Panthers outscored their opponents 38-24 in the fourth quarter of games that were within one score entering the final quarter. This includes three game-winning, final-minute drivers that concluded with Cam Newton passing touchdowns.
Secondly, Cam lives for big-time games/moments.
As I stated in the previous paragraph, Cam has been incredibly clutch against playoff caliber teams down the stretch this season (three game-winning touchdown drives in a six-game stretch). This knack for finishing games has pushed his quarterback rating in the second half of games too 99.6 on the season. He is also 4-6 for three touchdowns and no interceptions on fourth down this season.
Now, let's think back to a few years ago, Cam's rookie season. Cam played terribly in the pre-season and many were wondering if the franchise chose the wrong quarterback to turn the team around. However, he was a completely different player once the regular season began and he showed us all that he had what it takes to be an elite quarterback.
Finally, we are playing at Home.
Cam's quarterback rating at home stands at 100.00 on the season, a full 20 points higher than his rating on the road. We are one of six NFL teams who had a record of 7-1 or better at home on the season and our only loss was in the first game of the season, to No.1 seed Seattle, a game that could have gone either way.
In summary, I am more confident than ever heading into Sunday. All of this love for the 49ers is going to make it that much sweeter when we kick their sorry asses out of OUR stadium on Sunday. Cheers to the beginning of a great weekend Panthers fans!