First preview I have found that actually does a good job explaining the match-up.
Here are a couple good exerts, but I suggest you read the entire article:
Here's my question: How many times do the Carolina Panthers have to prove that they're for real before people start believing? The Vegas line is one indicator, but just in reading Twitter, doing radio appearances, and listening to assorted forms of media throughout the week, there's a definite perception that the Panthers need to win this game to legitimize their status as a serious contender to win the Super Bowl this year. As if going 12-4 weren't enough!
The weird thing about the whole Cam Newton narrative this year is that he's being twisted in two directions and doesn't belong to either of them. As I wrote about before thePanthers went on their 11-1 run to end the season, Newton wasn't the guy holding the Panthers back. And while Carolina has gone on an incredible run, with Newton coming up with a number of key drives along that path, he also really hasn't taken some enormous step forward this year. He's still Cam:
It All Comes Down To …
Passing. Both these teams have solid running games, even if they're not necessarily always dominant. They each have excellent defenses; Carolina ranked third in defensive DVOA this year, and while the 49ers finished 13th, the return of Aldon Smith turned them into a scarier unit as the season went along, and Smith had one of his best games of the year against Green Bay last week. They each have above-average special teams, with San Francisco trading superior performances from their kickers and punters for inferior return work by their return men.
The big question mark, then, is whether either of these teams will be able to throw the football. San Francisco's passing game was functionally useless in Week 10, and a few key conversions in the second half were enough for Carolina to come through with an enormous victory. The Niners suit up for this contest as the dreaded West Coast team playing a 1:05 p.m. ET game, but if they can get last week's Crabtree onto the field and keep Steve Smith off it, the difference in each team's passing attack might be enough to swing the pendulum toward San Francisco.
Great article from a man who seems to actually know what he is talking about!