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2017 NFL preview: Will the Panthers snap the 49ers Week 1 winning streak?

We’re previewing the NFL heading into training camp, mixing and matching 49ers opponents and other teams. Today, we look at the Carolina Panthers.

NFL training camp gets going in three weeks, and that means the NFL regular season is only two months away. I imagine most of us will be focusing on our San Francisco 49ers during training camp, but it will help to know a little bit about the rest of the league. SB Nation’s 32 NFL sites are putting together basic rundowns of what their team has been up to this offseason.

Each explainer includes free agent additions and departures, trades, draft picks expected to contribute as rookies, biggest offseason addition, biggest storyline, underrated storyline, and notable injuries. The idea is to give you a quick but thorough background on each team. We’ll use these to look at 49ers opponents, but if we have time, I want to try and use all 32 to give us a nice look around the league.

Today, we move on to the Carolina Panthers, courtesy of our friends at Cat Scratch Reader. The 49ers open the season at home against Carolina. The two teams squared off last season, and after the 49ers took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, Carolina went on a 24-0 run, eventually winning 46-27.

Carolina had a big regression in 2016, primarily due to Cam Newton taking some big hits. He did not get much help in Kelvin Benjamin’s return, and the Panthers will be looking for more from the receiver two years removed from his torn ACL. Even if Benjamin does continue to struggle, Carolina loaded up on offense in the draft. They selected Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 overall, and then used their second round picks on Ohio State receiver/running back Curtis Samuel and Western Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Moton.

On defense, they added Captain Munnerlyn, Mike Adams, and Julius Peppers in free agency. If the unit can bounce back from a defensive regression, they could be in good shape to compete for the NFC South.

The Panthers are currently a 4.5 point favorite on the road against the 49ers. The 49ers are in a rebuilding process, and likely looking at a rough year, but we can’t forget their Week 1 winning streak! The 49ers have won their Week 1 contest each of the last six years, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.


Who will win the 49ers-Panthers season opener?

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Notable free agent additions: DE Julius Peppers, CB Captain Munnerlyn, OT Matt Kalil, S Mike Adams,

Notable free agent departures: WR Ted Ginn, OT Mike Remmers, FB Mike Tolbert, DT Paul Soliai, LB AJ Klein

Trades: None

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Moton, DE Daeshon Hall.

While the Panthers continue to say veteran RB Jonathan Stewart will get the bulk of the work I think they will have a hard time not putting the ball in McCaffrey’s hands. I think he’s going to be electric as a rookie.

Biggest offseason addition: DE Julius Peppers - The Panthers all time sack leader returns home. So far the fans have welcomed him home with open arms.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: QB Cam Newton’s continued recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. He is expected to be ready for training camp but had only begin throwing recently.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: LB Shaq Thompson looks ready for a breakout season as the third All Pro LB in the Panthers starting line up.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: None beyond Newton’s rotator cuff.