A few pregame notes about the 0-5 Panthers and the 1-5 49ers in advance of their 1 p.m. game Sunday in Charlotte:
-- What a great time of year to see a bad football game. Congrats to Phil Youtsey and his Panther ticket staff for somehow managing to sell this one out and avoiding a local TV blackout – it couldn’t have been easy.
-- These teams have several interesting similarities. They both have great young linebackers (Patrick Willis and Jon Beason) and at least one superb running back (Frank Gore, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart). Their head coaches are on hot seats, their quarterback situation is iffy and they each lost their first five games in a row. The 49ers beat Oakland last Sunday.
-- Watch Gore coming out of the backfield Sunday. The unique thing about him is how often he is utilized as a receiver – he’s very versatile. Gore is also fumble-prone. His three fumbles in 2010 is tied for the league lead among running backs.
-- Remember about 15 years ago when the Panthers and 49ers were developing a significant rivalry before all the divisions got changed? One of my fondest Panther memories was watching the 1996 team win at San Francisco, 30-24, when Eric Davis had a game-clinching interception of Steve Young. “We came unglued,” 49ers coach George Seifert (and future Panthers coach) said after that game, in which San Francisco had more than 100 yards worth of penalties. As a 49ers coach, Seifert won two Super Bowls but only went 1-3 against the Panthers.
-- The Panthers badly need a return or defensive score Sunday, or at least some great field position generated by turnovers. Even with Steve Smith returning, I don’t see Matt Moore taking this offense on any 80-yard drives.
-- As I wrote earlier this week, I’m fine with John Fox flip-flopping back to Moore as the starting quarterback. Jimmy Clausen just didn’t look NFL-ready. Moore forces more balls into coverage, but he also has a stronger arm and at least handles snaps cleanly. Clausen’s time will come here, but you don’t want to turn him into David Carr (who is now the 49ers’ backup).
-- My 2010 Panther prediction record suffered a blow two weeks ago when I inexplicably picked Carolina to upset Chicago. That dropped me to 3-2 for the season.
So take everything I say with a grain of salt. But I think the fact that the Panthers are coming off a bye week and San Francisco doesn’t usually play that well in 1 p.m. East Coast games translates into a 14-10 Carolina victory.