MATTHEW BARROWS, 49ERS BEAT WRITER• 49ers 16, Panthers 13: The 49ers’ players who did not finish the first game against Carolina – Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis among them – should be enough to make up the one-point difference in that contest. It still will be a tight, defensive game, but the 49ers are better than they were in November, and they should prevail.
AILENE VOISIN, COLUMNIST• 49ers 17, Panthers 12: Defense, defense, defense. Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Phil Dawson. Then there’s the psychological factor. Last week’s victory in frigid Green Bay provides a heavy dose of swag.
TOM COUZENS, SPORTS EDITOR• Panthers 21, 49ers 17: The 49ers did just enough to squeak by the past three weeks. That won’t be good enough today against Cam Newton and Carolina’s defense.
VICTOR CONTRERAS, DEPUTY SPORTS EDITOR• 49ers 24, Panthers 13: With both defenses evenly matched, it’s a matter of which team has the better offense. No question it’s the 49ers, especially now that Michael Crabtree’s return has their engine in high gear.
MATT KAWAHARA, STAFF WRITER• 49ers 20, Panthers 17: NaVorro Bowman will keep Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in check, and the 49ers, with Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree healthy, will move the ball like they couldn’t in Week 10.
JONATHAN JONES, PANTHERS BEAT WRITER• Panthers 24, 49ers 21: Steve Smith will pull a Willis Reed, coming back from a knee injury to give the Panthers’ offense a huge boost. The Panthers also will get five sacks and intercept two passes to create short fields.
JOSEPH PERSON, PANTHERS BEAT WRITER• Panthers 24, 49ers 21: The 49ers are a different team than the one the Panthers beat in Week 10, but the Panthers’ defense is the same one that forced Colin Kaepernick to throw into tight windows and limited his running ability. Cam Newton will outplay Kaepernick again.
TOM SORENSEN, COLUMNIST• Panthers 24, 49ers 23: Carolina’s specialty is winning close games. The Panthers believe that when it comes down to the final minute, possession or quarter, they’ll prevail. Worked so far. Why change now?
SCOTT FOWLER, COLUMNIST• Panthers 20, 49ers 16: In a rematch once again dominated by big defensive plays, the Panthers will get just enough from Cam Newton and Co. to edge the 49ers.
MICHAEL PERSINGER, EXECUTIVE SPORTS EDITOR• 49ers 21, Panthers 17: The return of Michael Crabtree and a full game from Vernon Davis will be the difference for San Francisco, which will get more from Colin Kaepernick the second time around.