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Panthers vs 49ers: A Battle of 2 Top NFL Defenses

The Panthers and the undefeated 49ers will clash this Sunday, in what should be a tough defensive battle.

SAN FRANCISCO — At the end of this match-up, it might be best not to look at the individual quarterback ratings because they may not be pretty.

(5-2) Carolina will travel to the Bay Area this Sunday to face the undefeated (6-0) San Francisco 49ers, in what is expected to be a defensive battle. Don't believe us? Just look at the numbers.

Carolina leads the league with a whopping 27 sacks in six games. The undefeated 49ers are tied for fifth with 20 sacks and they are allowing just 10.7 points per game.

The media has asked Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera every question every which way about the intimidating SF defense, and he mentioned it goes both ways.

"You never really know what combination you are going to get, but you've got to prepare for all of them," Rivera said. "So we've had to talk about the different skill sets our offensive line will face, and hopefully they (San Francisco) are doing the same thing and are preparing for all of our guys."

Carolina knows how to get to the quarterback, and will be looking to add to their staggering sack number this Sunday against 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. But number 10 is well aware of the challenge ahead.

"They're very talented. Big and strong up front," Garoppolo said. "They get after you with four guys. They don't have to pressure that much."

The key for the Panthers to dethrone one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, will be to play ahead, not from behind.

"We've got to stay on schedule and be really good on first down," Panther Tight End Greg Olsen said. "We are going to find ourselves in a lot of third down situations, and we've got to keep them manageable and we've got to do a really good job executing our plan."

The 49ers, as their record indicates, are spending a lot of time in front. San Francisco averages 35:42 game time with a lead – second-most in the NFC behind Green Bay, according to Football Outsiders. That allows them to rely on the run, which they've done rather effectively with 172.7 rushing yards per game (the No. 2 mark in the league).

So there you have it. If the Panthers can somehow grab an early lead on the road, the game becomes a lot easier to manage. But if they continually have to play catch up in a hostile environment, and against the best defense in the league, San Francisco may be undefeated for at least one more week.

What do you think of this upcoming NFC showdown? Be sure to follow WFMY News 2 Sports Director Luke Lyddon on Twitter at @Luke_Lyddon for live coverage throughout the game. Kickoff is set for 4:05 pm.