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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers might be getting some extra help in the backfield Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons with the NFC South championship on the line.
Running back DeAngelo Williams is listed as probable after missing the last three games with a broken hand. Williams practiced fully all week with a cast on his hand. Coach Ron Rivera said he still has some concern whether the franchise's all-time leading rusher will be able to stand up to pass protection and catch the ball with the injury.
"He has taken a lot of reps, but there are still a few things we want to see more than anything else," Rivera said Friday.
Rivera said the team will "do some things on the side" with Williams to test him out before making a final decision on his playing status, but wouldn't elaborate.
The fourth-year coach remained coy about the team's plans for Sunday, but it's expected the Panthers will rely heavily on Jonathan Stewart. Rivera said Stewart is running as well as he's ever seen him run in recent weeks. Stewart is averaging 109.2 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry over the last four games.
When asked if Stewart would still see the vast majority of reps on Sunday, Rivera said "we will call the plays accordingly as to who is supposed to be in there."
Williams has missed nine games due to injuries. He has 219 yards rushing on 62 carries this year.
Stewart leads the team with 760 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
If healthy enough to play, Williams gives the Panthers an experienced backup in a winner-take-all game.
Despite going more than two months without a victory this season, Carolina enters Week 17 in first place and needing a win or tie Sunday at Atlanta to repeat as division champions and earn a first-round home game. If the Panthers (6-8-1) beat the Falcons (6-9) in Week 17, they seal the division title, but they lost to their division rivals earlier this season.
Carolina's injury report is surprisingly thin for a Week 17 game, with outside linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) the only other player listed on the report. He is questionable. Rookie Adarius Glanton will make his second straight start if Klein can't play.
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