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Week 1 is a good time to be facing the Carolina Panthers

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The 49ers have a chance to upset the Panthers early.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers believe that their struggles last season don’t represent the team that they actually are. When they play the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, they’re going into a game they should win under any circumstances. Struggling against a team like the 49ers after posting a 6-10 season would be hugely disappointing for the Panthers.

They have an offense that lacked far behind where they expected it, and a defense that was laughably bad despite the fact that they finished second in the league in sacks. They couldn’t stop anything, and the big storyline going into Week 1 is whether or not they can pick things up against Brian Hoyer and Kyle Shanahan.

Of course, they should. The 49ers are expected to put up a fight — they will run an offense low on mistakes and turnovers and a defense predicated on getting to the quarterback very, very quickly. But they are also a very young team with a journeyman quarterback. They’re a team that couldn’t win games a year ago, and the 49ers are viewed, above all else, as a great launching point.

They’re an opportunity.

But all of this means the Panthers are teetering on the edge of going one direction or another. Losing to the 49ers wouldn’t derail their season, but it would reverse the narrative they’re trying to create out of the gate. It’s all about settings them back — first by being tougher than they expected, and then again by actually winning the game.

The Panthers are vulnerable, physically and mentally. The time to attack them is right away, and the 49ers are in a great position to do that.