The San Francisco 49ers head into Charlotte on Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round of the 2014 NFL playoffs. The spread on this game opened as a pick 'em, but money quickly came in on the 49ers. The line moved to 49ers -2 1/2. It has since swung back down to a pick 'em in most places, with the occasional 49ers -1.
Whatever the spread winds up at on Sunday, the general consensus from Panthers players and fans is that the team is being unfairly painted as the underdog. We've seen plenty of chatter about it in the comments at Cat Scratch Reader, and the players had a chance to chime in as well.
Mike Tolbert says it's "ridiculous" Panthers are underdogs at home; adds "I've always been shorter & fatter so I'm ok with being underdog."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 10, 2014
The Panthers finished 12-4, and defeated the 49ers 10-9 in Week 10 at Candlestick Park. The Panthers are a very good team, but there are enough differences since then that I am not surprised money is coming in on the 49ers. The most notable that we've discussed ad nauseam is the return of Michael Crabtree, and hopefully having a healthy Vernon Davis, Eric Reid and Garrett Celek.
However, it is worth noting Kassim Osgood will also be active for this game. In Week 10, he was inactive as the 49ers gave Jon Baldwin an opportunity. Both Panthers scores were set up by solid Ted Ginn punt returns, including a 19-yarder on the touchdown, and a 25-yarder on the game-winning field goal. Osgood may not have been the difference on those two punts, but given what we've seen from him, he very well might have made a play (or led to someone else making a play).
Additionally, for both sides, there were lost opportunities by the defense to make plays. The Panthers defense dropped an early Colin Kaepernick interception. The Panthers offense fumbled the ball three times, but only lost one of them. Once the ball hits the ground, anything can happen.
Of course, not everybody is buying into the Panthers underdog trend. While one online sportsbook said 75 percent of money was coming in on the Panthers, sharps were not quite so worried about it:
"I think our sharps realized this game was never going to get to 49ers -3 - like it did versus the Packers - and they decided to take the +2.5 while it was still there," says Stewart. "This is a situation where sharps and the public are on opposite sides. So far 75 percent of the money is on the 49ers but we very much like our position and we'll have no problem going into this game needing the dog
We'll see who comes out on top on this one. The public, or the betting experts?
Here are some trends for 49ers vs. Panthers, courtesy of Odds Shark:
49ers are 2-7 ATS at Carolina since 1995
Carolina is 15-3 ATS vs Niners since 1995
OVER is 12-3 past 15 meetings
49ers are 11-3-1 ATS past 15 road games
49ers are 9-1 SU and ATS past 10 games as road chalk
Panthers are 7-3 ATS lifetime in the playoffs
Panthers are 8-1-1 ATS past 10 home games
Panthers are 8-3 ATS past 11 games as underdogs