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One reason why the 49ers will win (and one reason why they will not)

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With the Carolina Panthers coming to Levi’s Stadium, here’s one reason why the 49ers will win — and one reason why they will not.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers’ biggest test awaits them on Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium — a 4-2 Carolina Panthers’ team that has beaten San Francisco in six straight matchups.

The giant elephant in the room is that the 49ers have only two signature wins on the season — a Monday Night Football victory over the Browns and a short-handed road win over the Rams.

Can head coach Kyle Shanahan lead his team to a seventh-straight win to start this season? Here’s one reason why the 49ers come out victorious — and one reason why they will be on the losing end of today’s contest.

Why the 49ers will defeat the Panthers on Sunday

The face of the Panthers’ franchise for the past six seasons has been quarterback Cam Newton, but he will be watching from the sidelines like the rest of us, still recovering from his injury.

Backup quarterback Kyle Allen will once again start for Carolina and will look to lead his side for a fifth-straight victory. But Sunday will be Allen’s toughest challenge. In Carolina’s four wins with Allen, they have defeated the Cardinals, Texans, Jaguars, and Buccaneers.

The defensive rankings of those four teams? 29, 22, 19, and 17.

Where is the 49ers’ defense ranked? Two.

San Francisco might be nursing some injuries on the offensive side of the ball, but outside of corner Ahkello Witherspoon, that defense has been healthy and lights out. San Francisco has only been giving up 90 yards per game on the ground and 133 yards per game through the air — which is No. 1 in the NFL.

The matchup between the 49ers’ defensive line and the Panthers’ offensive line is another mismatch. Per Pro Football Focus, here are the grades for those two position groups, and the 49ers are better at every position along the line.

San Francisco will need to win this game on the backs of their defense, taking advantage of Allen’s inexperience and limiting McCaffrey’s yards.

The 49ers are going to make this a low-scoring game — they’ve only given up TEN combined points in the last three games. Allen and this Panthers’ offense will not be able to score enough points to leave Levi’s Stadium with a win.

Why the 49ers will not defeat the Panthers on Sunday

Playoff teams do not lose to Kyle Allen — it’s as simple as that. But with the 49ers sitting at 6-0, the only thing that’s going to get in their way on Sunday is their complacency. With growing expectations with every passing week, San Francisco has been able to overcome the hype and hang up W’s in the win column each week.

Will that change on Sunday?

San Francisco hasn’t beaten Carolina in six straight matchups, but the complexity of both teams have changed so much. The Panthers are going to lean heavily on their running game and defense to carry them to a low-scoring victory in San Francisco.

Their MVP candidate — running back Christian McCaffrey — has been spectacular so far, but is coming off of a quiet game against the Buccaneers. McCaffrey cannot have 57 total scrimmage yards again if the Panthers want to win against the No. 2 defense in the NFL.

McCaffrey will need to have at least 125 yards from scrimmage for the Panthers to have a shot on Sunday.

The other reason why the Panthers have a chance to win? Their pass rush and coverage linebackers. Rookie defender Brian Burns and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are going to make life difficult for an inexperienced 49ers’ offensive line. Tight end George Kittle will also be covered by some of the best linebackers in the NFL — Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson.

If McCaffrey and the Panthers’ defense can have a big day, they could certainly pull off the upset at Levi’s Stadium.