SAN FRANCISCO — This has been a great week to be a fan of the Carolina Panthers, especially if you spend time in or around Charlotte. Bars, restaurants, sports talk radio, non-sports talk radio, your living room you had to work to find places fans did not talk about Sundays game.
And it wasnt merely us. USA Today offers a weekly NFL preview and features one game. Carolina-San Francisco is it.
Randomly turn on the NFL Network Friday night and the fellows are debating whether they prefer as their quarterback Carolinas Cam Newton or San Franciscos Colin Kaepernick.
Vivid Seats tracks the secondary value of tickets; that is, not how much initial buyers pay but the price original buyers are able to charge. The mean Carolina-San Francisco ticket goes for $250, third highest this week in the NFL.
Among the least appreciated facets of sports is anticipation. You get hard guys who contend that only the result counts. I refuse to live in that often joyless world.
The San Francisco game is the most anticipated for Panther fans since 2008. (We invoke 2008 so frequently it sounds magical, mythical and mystical, as if it offers eternal sunshine and mermaids, and nice mermaids, not mean ones.)
I love thinking about this game and the possibilities it offers. One of Charlottes best known residents says hell be there. Thats Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
Who are you pulling for?
Come on, now! Curry says in a text message.
If you know Curry, you know who his team is. You ought to know even if you dont know him.
Critics contend almost hourly that Carolinas four-game win streak has come against inferior opponents, and theyre correct. But what were the Panthers supposed to do apologize, refuse to play, petition commissioner Roger Goodell for stiffer competition?
Good teams are supposed to beat bad teams badly, and the Panthers did.
If they beat San Francisco, the victory doesnt mean theyve arrived. If they lose, the loss doesnt mean they havent. I see San Francisco and Carolinas their next two opponents New England in Charlotte and Miami in Miami as a set.
The numbers are interesting. Miami is 2-2 at home. The Patriots are 2-2 on the road and have lost two straight as visitors to Cincinnati and the New York Jets.
San Francisco is 3-1 at home. The last two seasons, playoffs included, the 49ers are 10-2-1 at home.
San Francisco has not been the NFLs best team this season but it might be the most complete. If theres a better offensive line, I dont see it. The 49ers will hammer the ball, or attempt to. They lead the league in rushing (153 yards a game), rushing touchdowns (15) and runs of 20 or more yards.
Carolinas major statistical edge comes in sacks. The Panthers rank ninth, the 49ers 25th.
The 49ers, however, almost certainly will regain the services of pass-rusher Aldon Smith. Smith is 6-4 and 265 pounds, somehow only 23 years old and remarkably athletic. He sat out five weeks while he was in a treatment center.
In its last four games San Francisco has five sacks. In the three games Smith played he had 4½.
The 49ers are tested. Thats clearly an edge. They play in national games. Because they are who they are, almost every game they play is national. Theyre 6-2 and defending NFC champs, and if you beat them, especially on the road, you did something.
Hype doesnt mean a game will be good. Hype means a game will be big.
Have fun with it.
Sorensen: 704-358-5119; email@example.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen