The San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season, and we make three bold predictions for the Niners.
On Sept. 18, 2016, the Chip Kelly-led San Francisco 49ers faced off with a Carolina Panthers team fresh off a 2015 Super Bowl loss. The 2016 49ers were not expected to have any juice considering the season they had in 2015. Still, the 49ers entered Bank of America Stadium ready to win that game. In a hard fought, back and forth game, the Panthers eventually pulled away from the Red and Gold to a lofty game-winning lead.
In the end, the game ended with a score of 46-27. However, the score doesn’t show the number of times the 49ers made the game a competitive contest. As the 2016 season rolled on, two things became clear — the 49ers were a terribly constructed team and the Panthers were dealing with a tumultuous drop from the mountaintop.
Enter the start of the 2017 regular season and if the picture above is any indication, the 49ers have some unfinished business to take care of. Of course, most of the 2016 49ers players are gone.
Players such as quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are no longer with the team. The same can be said for the starting wide receivers, Torrey Smith and Jeremy Kerley, as they have also been let go.
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This newly constructed team is also commanded by fist-time head coach Kyle Shanahan. Coach Shanny has been a hot head coaching candidate for the last two hiring cycles so making his debut will be a highly anticipated event.
While the Panthers no longer seem like the team that went to the Super Bowl, they are still a highly-talented team primed to compete for a playoff spot in 2017. A Week 1 win here can spark the kindling a rebuilding 49ers team needs.
To pull off the win, the 49ers need three bold things to happen. These three bold things:
3. Panthers held to less than 100 rushing yards
This may seem farfetched seeing that the Panthers make their living by running the rock, but this is not as crazy as it may seem. The 49ers of 2017 are a far improved team from the scrappy 2016 team that the Panthers ran over last season.
In fact, this team made some notable changes and additions that surely solidify the front seven. Additions such as rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and D.J. Jones as well as veterans Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil. Pairing these guys with the likes of Aaron Lynch, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner makes a monstrous defensive front.
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In the middle of the defense is All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman and highly anticipated rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. Both will make a nasty duo for any tailback to run through.
2. 49ers score 28 points
Yes, you read that right — a prediction that the 49ers will score 28 points on that talented Carolina Panthers defense. Last season, former 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw for two and ran one in. In fact, Gabbert threw a dime to hands of stone tight end Vance McDonald that went for a long gain.
Both Gabbert and McDonald are gone and for good reason. They both left plenty of plays on the field. If player like Gabbert and McDonald put a hurting on the Panthers last season, players like Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson and Pierre Garcon will certainly make some plays.
This new look 49ers will field a plethora of new players and a whole new offensive scheme. This new scheme will play to the strength of the offense. The power and burst of running back Carlos Hyde and the speed and savvy route running at the wide receiver position.
1. 49ers win Week 1
The 49ers win their Week 1 matchup against the Panthers by outscoring them, 28-24. The defense plays big in this game coming up with two turnovers and a sack on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
These turnovers help keep the momentum on the 49ers side and lead to two scores. The Panthers are a talented team so they keep it close but the turnovers hurt them. In the end, the 49ers and their retooled roster win out.