Panthers outnumbered in playoff experience

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula was surprised on Monday when he asked for a show of hands for offensive players who had been in a playoff game.

There were 12.

Shula also acknowledged "there's no way to argue" that the San Francisco 49ers, the reigning NFC champion that is to visit Bank of America Stadium for the divisional playoff game at 1:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, doesn't have far more playoff experience.

On Carolina's 53-man roster, 21 have been in a playoff game, 12 on offense and nine on defense. Only 12 of those are starters, seven on offense and five on defense.

The Panthers haven't been in the playoffs since 2008, and haven't won a playoff game since 2005.

Twenty of San Francisco's 22 starters were on the team that went to the Super Bowl a season ago. Only rookie safety Eric Reid doesn't have playoff experience among the starters.

The 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship Game the past two seasons, and are coming off a 23-20 playoff victory at Green Bay.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick already has played in four playoff games, and has 362 yards rushing, the fifth most in playoffs history. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is making his playoff debut.

These are all reasons many of the so-called experts favor the 49ers, who lost 10-9 to Carolina at Candlestick Park on Nov. 10. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh reminded "our guys have been down this road before."

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said it will come down to "which quarterback will flinch." He followed that by saying, "I'm gonna say San Francisco has more experience in this situation."

Then again, the 49ers hadn't been to the playoffs since 2002 when they advanced to the 2011 NFC Championship. Kaepernick hadn't been in a playoff game before he almost single-handedly led the team to a divisional win against Green Bay last season with 181 yards rushing and 263 yards passing.

So experience is valuable, but it's not necessarily the deciding factor.