Young quarterbacks hold key to Panthers and 49ers clash
By Julian Linden
(Reuters) - Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, two of the hottest young quarterbacks in the National Football League, will go head-to-head on Sunday in a mouthwatering NFC divisional playoff.
Newton will lead a Carolina Panthers team making their first playoff appearance in five seasons while Kaepernick will call the shots for the visiting San Francisco 49ers, who won the NFC last season before losing to Baltimore in the Super Bowl.
It is a match that has all the makings of a classic as both teams are overflowing with potent offenses and backed by water-tight defenses.
But it is the battle between the two gifted quarterbacks that has captured the most attention in the buildup and looms as the decisive factor in the outcome.
Both men are among the most productive rushing quarterbacks in the game and, if their most recent clash is any guide, the yards gained with their legs could prove more important than the yards gained from their throws.
The teams met once in the regular season, with the Panthers winning 10-9 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park last November. Kaepernick, 26, threw for a season-low 91 yards while Newton, 24, threw for 169 yards in a game dominated by swarming defense.
The 49ers are the slight favorites, although they are on the road for the second consecutive playoff game after edging the Green Bay Packers last weekend.
They have won their last seven games in a row dating back to the regular season, the longest active streak in the NFL, and are brimming with confidence with the experience of playing in last year's Super Bowl still fresh. Continued...