Panthers Preview- Another Loss On The Cards?

October 8, 2022

The Panthers face arguably their toughest test of the season so far as Kyle Shanahan as his first ranked defense roll into Bank Of America Stadium.

Matt Rhule is really drinking in the last chance saloon. A 1-3 start to the season leaves the former Baylor man with an 11-26 record as an NFL head coach, a win percentage of just .297 leaves Rhule on the hot seat and many Panthers’ fans calling for his head.  

Things don’t get much easier for Rhule and the Panthers as they face the San Francisco 49ers who last season made a trip to the NFC title game and currently sit at 2-2 while posting the number one defense in the league with an array of defensive talents. This Niners’ defense held the super bowl champion LA Rams to just nine points and just 257 yards of offense, not the game the Panthers struggling offense will want to see. 

On the other side of the ball, there’s cause for optimism despite the Panthers struggling with some injuries in the secondary, Jimmy Garoppolo while solid doesn’t bring the same excitement as 49ers starter Trey Lance who saw his season cut short due to a broken ankle. The Niners have weapons all across the offense with the likes of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle available.

However, one area of concern for Shanahan could be his offensive line. With All-pro Left Tackle Trey Williams and backup Colton McKivitz injured third-string tackle Jaylon Moore will get the start possibly creating a favorable matchup for Carolina’s star edge rusher Brian Burns. Despite this, the Panthers are heavy underdogs here with San Francisco currently six-and-half point favorites according to Draft Kings despite being the road team. 

Panthers Offenseive Struggles To Continue?

If the Panthers wanted a game to get right they couldn’t have picked a worse matchup. The 49ers’ defense has caused chaos this season, with just 46 points allowed over the first four games with 19 of those coming week one, meaning the 49ers have allowed just 27 points in three games. We saw the defensive dominance from the 49ers led by defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans in the MNF football win over the LA Rams. 

The 49ers held the Rams to just nine points, sacked Rams QB Matthew Stafford seven times, and had a defensive touchdown from Safety Talanoa Hufanga. Heading into this matchup Ryans will be licking his lips at the thought of facing Ben McAdoo and his stagnant offense led by Baker Mayfield. The Panthers average just 262.3 yards of total offense per game which is the lowest in the league. It has been a struggle for Quarterback Baker Mayfield whose QBR of 15.3 is the lowest in the league. 

This elite 49ers defense is led by star edge rusher Nick Bosa, the former Ohio State Buckeye who was drafted third overall back in 2019 leads the league so far with six sacks and will provide another stout test for rookie Left Tackle Ikem Ekwonu. Bosa also has previous with Panthers QB Mayfield, during the pairs time at college with Oklahoma and Ohio State Mayfield infamously planted the Sooners flag at Midfield at Ohio Stadium following a 31-16 victory. 

Bosa exacted his revenge in 2019 planting an imaginary flag in a sack celebration during a 49ers 31-3 win over Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns. Mayfield’s stat line that day Panthers fans, 8/22 100 yards a pair of picks, a pair of fumbles, and a QB rating of 13.4. We saw in Week Four a connection starting to form between Mayfield and DJ Moore, if Carolina has any chance of winning Week Five Moore must have a big impact alongside Christian McCaffrey.

Panthers Defense To Excel?

On the other side of the ball, there’s more cause for optimism. The Panthers head into this game after back-to-back games with defensive touchdowns, Marquis Haynes returned a fumble for a touchdown in week three, and in week four against Arizona emerging star, Frankie Luvu returned a Kylar Murray interception to the house. 

If the Panthers want any chance of winning here the defense must completely shut San Francisco down. Don’t be surprised to see defensive coordinator Phil Snow dial up some exotic blitz packages in order to unsettle QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Also, expect to see Snow attempt to target the Niners’ third-string tackle Jaylon Moore and match him up against Brian Burns. 

However, the Niners do have an array of offensive weapons, led by the immensely talented Deebo Samuel, if the Panthers want to shut down Samuel he must be shadowed by Jaycee Horn, Horn the Panthers’ first-round pick a year ago is showing no sign of a sophomore slump. Through four weeks according to PFF Horn is grading out at 78.9 ranking him in the top ten for CBs.

If the Panthers want any success in Week Five the Panthers may need to score a defensive touchdown for a third straight week.

Injury Report

The Panthers head into this clash with a long injury list with three players confirmed out and three players listed as questionable.

The Panthers will already be without star S Jeremy Chinn after he was placed on IR with a Hamstring injury, they may also be without fellow starter Xavier Woods who didn’t practice all week but is listed as questionable. 

The Panthers will also be without Laviska Shenault, the WR who scored a 67-yard TD in week three on his first catch is expected to miss two weeks with a hamstring issue. The Panthers will also be without TE Stephen Sullivan (Back) and CB Stantley Thomas Oliver (Thigh) as they are both listed as out. 

Alongside Woods, the Panthers have a pair of defensive players questionable, as OLB Frankie Luvu (Shoulder) and Marquis Haynes (Knee) are both questionable. Luvu has arguably been the star of the Panthers’ defense so far this season, and Haynes provides vital pass-rushing depth for the Panthers alongside Brian Burns. 

Full Injury Report

WR Laviska Shenault (Hamstring) OUT 

TE Stephen Sullivan (Back) OUT

CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver (Thigh) OUT

OLB Frankie Luvu (Shoulder) Questionable

S  Xavier Woods (Hamstring) Questionable 

DE Marquis Haynes (Knee) Questionable. 

The 49ers head into this clash also with an extended injury list as Kyle Shanahan has seven players ruled out against Carolina. 

These include starters on both sides of the ball with the defensive line especially struggling for depth, with Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead both ruled out. The 49ers will also be without DB Tavarius Moore leaving the 49ers’ defense without some key contributors. 

On the offensive side of the ball, San Francisco will be missing OL pairing Trent Williams and Colton McKivitz, alongside RB Tyrion Davis-Price and TE Tyler Kroft who are both out. 

Full Injury Report.

T Trent Williams (Ankle) OUT

OL Colton McKivitz (Knee) OUT 

TE Tyler Kroft (Knee) OUT

RB Tyrion Davis-Price (Ankle) OUT

DL Arik Armstead (Foot, Ankle) OUT

DL Javon Kinlaw (Knee) OUT 

DB Tavarius Moore (Hamstring) OUT.

Prediction

Despite the 49ers being short-handed on both sides of the ball it’s hard to envisage a scenario where Carolina wins this game, the offense simply hasn’t gotten started so far this season, and don’t expect things to change against an elite 49ers defense at what will likely be an empty 49er fan filled BOA Stadium. 

Carolina 3 San Francisco 10 

View From The Opposition.

Chris Polo and Chris Hollis Managing Editor and Contributing Writer for Niners Empire the 49ers Stadium Rant affiliate gave me there thoughts and predictions ahead of Week Five. 

Chris Hollis

This game sets up to be exactly what Vegas thinks it will be. With the lowest scoring total on the Week Five slate at 39.5 points. The 49ers came off a bad showing in Week Three and bounced back with a solid showing in Week Four. The Panthers played their best game of the season in Week Three and followed that up with a shakey loss in Week Four. Both teams are dying for some consistency.

When we look at the stat sheets, we see exactly which way the scoring is expected to lean. The 49ers’ defense is the main driver here- second-ranked defense in total rushing yards, third-ranked defense in avg. yards per attempt, third-ranked in sacks (15), and tied for first overall in total yards allowed per game (with Buffalo). Knowing that Carolina has been struggling to get things going offensively, they are not in a great spot for a “get right” game.

Flipping the field and looking at Carolina’s defense, they are not as good as their talent would suggest. They are ranked 24th in total rushing yards allowed per game, bottom six defense in rushing first downs, 18th ranked in total yards per game, and 30th in sacks (six). It’s this team’s inability to keep their offense on the field that truly is hurting this defense. They rank dead last in average time of possession. No home-field advantage can compensate for that.

What needs to happen?

For San Francisco, the left side of the offensive line needs to hold up. The Panthers have a top-tier pass rusher in Brian Burns. If that side doesn’t protect Jimmy G, it could get ugly. George Kittle may stay lined up inside on the left for much of this game. Deebo Samuel has also lined up more in the left slot than in any other position, so there may be a few surprise chip blocks coming from him. 

Shanahan will need to use some tricks to help cover up that side of the line. More play-action and right-side roll-outs could be useful. They also need to do what Shanahan is creative at running the ball. With the Panthers’ run defense being suspect, Kyle needs to exploit this. This will be a huge factor in keeping a Carolina pass rush in check as well.

For Carolina, they need to get home on Jimmy Garoppolo, period. This is the 49ers’ most glaring weakness (third-stringer Jaylon Moore is stepping in at left tackle) and the Panthers need to smell blood in the water. With only six sacks on the season, it isn’t exactly the Panthers’ bright spot. 

This team has been wildly inconsistent with production from their top two offensive stars, Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. In the Week Three win, Christian had over 100 yards on the ground while D.J. had one reception for two yards. In the Week Four loss, Christian had 27 yards rushing yards, and D.J. had six receptions for 50 yards. 

This Panthers staff has got to figure out how to get these dynamic players clicking in the same week and get them in positions to succeed with green in front of them. Can McAdoo do that against the 49ers’ defense? Their bottom-ranked offensive line will make that tough if they do not take advantage of the 49ers being thinner on the defensive line. Baker under pressure is not a good Baker.

If this game approaches its expected point total, I see 70% of the scoring coming from SF.

24-6 San Francisco feels right to me. My apologies Panthers fans. This may just be a bad week to gain momentum.

Chris Polo

The Panthers have been struggling this season while the 49ers have had the best defense in the NFL. With the return of Jimmie Ward, a scary defense just got even deeper.

The Panthers should stand little to no chance of beating the Niners in Week Five. Expect Baker Mayfield to be under immense pressure all game and be forced into making mistakes.

Bold Prediction: The 49ers force three turnovers on defense and sack Baker Mayfield six times in what will be a lopsided contest. Offensively, George Kittle will have his breakout game with 100-receiving yards and Jeff Wilson Jr. will accompany that with 100 yards on the ground.

Score prediction: 49ers win 27-6