Carolina Panthers (4-2) at San Francisco 49ers (6-0)
The Panthers started 0-2 with a badly injured Cam Newton under center, but only lost week 1 by 3 points, despite failing to recover all 4 fumbles in the game, and week 2 they only lost by 6 points in a game they had a chance to win at the end. Since then, they Panthers have won 4 straight games with backup quarterback Kyle Allen under center, with Newton inactive and rehabbing. There’s an argument to be made that the Panthers could be 6-0 if Allen were starting all season, though many of those wins would be close.
The 49ers, meanwhile, actually are 6-0 and most of their wins have not been close, with their only win by less than a touchdown coming in a game in which they won despite losing the turnover battle by 3. Along with the Bills, the 49ers are one of two teams in the league to win multiple games despite losing the turnover battle (Steelers and Rams) and they are 6-0 with a +92 point differential (2nd in the NFL) despite only a +2 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so it’s very encouraging to see the 49ers able to win games even without winning the turnover battle.
On the season, the 49ers rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +10.14%, only behind the Patriots at +12.65%. Given that they’ve played a much tougher schedule than the Patriots, there’s an argument that they’ve been the best team in the league thus far. They rank 6th in my roster rankings, significantly better than the Panthers, who rank 14th in my roster rankings and 13th in first down rate differential at +1.71%. This line is a little short at San Francisco -5.5. I have the 49ers calculated as 7.5-point favorites in this one. The 49ers aren’t in a great spot with another game in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, but it’s against the Cardinals, so it’s unlikely that the 49ers won’t be focused for this much more important game. I don’t think we’re getting quite enough line value to bet on San Francisco, but they should be the right side.
Sunday Update: This line has dropped to -4 Sunday Morning. The 49ers are worth a bet at that number. The gap between these two teams is much wider than that suggests.
San Francisco 49ers 24 Carolina Panthers 16
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4