Raiders welcome Cam Newton, Panthers to the Coliseum Sunday

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Winners of four straight games for the first time since 2002, the Raiders look to continue their winning ways at home Sunday when the Silver and Black welcome the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to the Oakland Coliseum.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw two of his three touchdowns in the final frame to lift Oakland to a 27-20 “home” victory over the Houston Texans (6-4) on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to close out Week 11.

The game was played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which last hosted an NFL game in 2005 when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in a game that aired on ESPN’s Monday Night Football too.

Carr is continuing to have an outstanding 2016 season, throwing for 2,800 yards with 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The third-year signal caller is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and is being touted as an MVP candidate.

At 8-2, Oakland is tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC and holds a one-game lead in the AFC West over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos who are both 7-3.

Denver hosts Kansas City on Sunday night in a highly anticipated matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The Raiders appear to be jelling at the right time on both sides of the ball.

Despite losing the time of possession 36:27 to 23:33, allowing 104 rushing yards to running back Lamar Miller, and 22 first downs to Houston, Oakland’s defense made life difficult to the Texans’ offense by forcing two turnovers.

Linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith, along with rookie safety Karl Joseph were all over the field racking up 10 tackles a piece. Smith also intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass in the second quarter.

Carolina (4-6) is having a tough season following the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl.

The reigning NFC Champions are dealing with a slew of injuries to key players following a 23-20 victory in Week 11 over division rival New Orleans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion), defensive end Mario Addison (foot), and center Ryan Khalil (shoulder) are all out for Sunday’s game.

Kuechly, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, leads Carolina in tackles (71) while Addison, the team’s most disruptive pass rusher, leads the Panthers with 6.5 sacks.

Khalil, a two-time All-Pro at center, is Carolina’s best offensive lineman and the main protector for franchise quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton threw for 192 yards and one touchdown as Carolina nearly blew another 17-point lead the way they did in their Week 10 home lost to Kansas City, holding off a Saints team that scored 17 unanswered points in the final frame after trailing 23-3 entering the fourth quarter.

Oakland will have its hands full dealing with a Carolina offense that includes running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Olsen is by far Newton’s favorite weapon and one of the premier tight ends in the league.

Not only does the 10-year tight end from Miami leads all NFL tight ends in receptions (54) and yards (745), but leads the Panthers in those categories while tied with wide receiver Devin Funchess for second on the team with three touchdown grabs behind Benjamin’s four scores.

Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT.

 

 

 

49ers travel to Carolina for Divisional Round

By Gabe Schapiro

One down, three to go. After last weeks win over the Green Packers, the San Francisco 49ers advanced to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. This Sunday they travel to Carolina, where they will be taking on the Panthers. The second seeded Panthers won the NFC South title with a 12-4 record. They had a first round bye.

Carolina started the season 1-3, before going on a tear and finishing the year on a 11-1 run. They are led by quarterback Cam Newton, who is one of the most athletic QB’s in the league. He struggled at times, but overall the third year rising star had his best season yet. However, he doesn’t have great weapons at his disposal. His favorite targets are tight end Greg Olsen, who leads the team in receiving and touchdown catches, and wideouts Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. None of the group are real game breakers. As a whole they scored the 18th most points per game in the regular season. They lean significantly on their running game, which ranked 11th. They finished an abysmal 29th in passing yards per game.

The reason the Panthers are still a team to fear, is because of their stout defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is the captain of the unit, and is seemingly in on every play. Defensive end Greg Hardy is a great pass rusher, and finished with 15 sacks this season. They allowed the second fewest points in the league.

This matchup isn’t quite a unstoppable force hitting an unmovable object, but it’s close. The 49ers feature the third best rushing attack in the NFL, and they’ll need some solid production against the Carolina, which counter with the leagues second best run defense.

These two foes faced off in Week 10 at Candlestick Park, and the Panthers came away with a hard fought 10-9 victory. In the contest the 49ers failed to reach the endzone, but thanks to three field goals held a lead for much of the game. A late field goal by Carolina sealed the comeback win.

As the saying goes, it’s tough to beat the same team twice in one season. However, the 49ers are fresh off of accomplishing just that last week. This weekend the conditions will be nicer, but the opponent is tougher. Colin Kaepernick will need to be a game manager. He needs to limit his mistakes and grab the few opportunities he’ll get. Michael Crabtree appears to be getting better every week, which is a great sign. Frank Gore wasn’t busy, but did well when given the carries in their previous matchup. He rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries, good for 5.1 yards per carry.

Expect another hard-nosed, low scoring affair. It’s certainly a winnable game, but it could come down to which side blinks first.

49ers to be tested against the tough Carolina Panthers

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:05pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) will be taking on the Carolina Panthers (5-3) at the friendly confines of Candlestick Park. This matchup features two teams who have been on a roll over the past few weeks. The 49ers have won five straight, and are in second place in the NFC West, just one game back of the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers had a shaky start, but have hit their stride, rattling off four wins in a row, putting themselves in second place in the NFC South, one game behind the New Orleans Saints.

San Francisco is coming off of their bye week, but two weeks ago they easily dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars, coasting to a 42-10 victory. The 49ers quickly put the game out of reach, mounting a 28-3 lead by half time. San Francisco stuck with what has got them here, and did most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 221 yards as a team. Frank Gore ran for 71 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Colin Kaepernick had two rushing touchdowns of his own to along with 54 yards on seven carries. For good measure, Kendall Hunter also got in on the action, compiling a team-high 84 yards on the ground on just nine attempts. On the defensive side the 49ers suffocated the Jaguars offense, not letting them ever get much of anything going. The highlight was a Patrick Willis forced fumble that Dan Skuta returned for a touchdown.

The Panthers should present a much more formidable opponent. On offense they have their own electric duel threat at quarterback in Cam Newton. His primary weapons are running back DeAngelo Williams, who is having a solid but not great season, tight end Greg Olson, who is leading the team in receiving yards, and old reliable Steve Smith, who isn’t the dominant player he once was, but still poses a threat. Their defense is easily their biggest strength, however. Young linebacker Luke Kuechly has been fantastic, lead the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in interceptions. Pass rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have consistently been giving opposing quarterbacks a hard time. As a unit they have allowed the second fewest yards and second fewest points per game in the NFL.

Sunday’s contest is a classic case of strength meeting strength. The 49ers have the fourth best rushing offense in the league, and they will be going up against the league’s best rush defense. Expect San Francisco to stick to their game plan, however, and go with a ground and pound approach. Depending on their success, however, they may need Kaepernick to air it out more than he has in recent weeks. Carolina’s defense hasn’t been as strong against the pass.

Mario Manningham and Aldon Smith are both expected to be active. It remains to be seen how limited they will be initially, but they could provide a big boost in what could be a tough week.