4 key Panthers matchups to watch at the Chiefs in Week 9

(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) Teddy Bridgewater
(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) Teddy Bridgewater /
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Carolina Panthers
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Christian McCaffrey vs. Anthony Hitchens

There appears some hope that Christian McCaffrey can make his return to the field this weekend. The Carolina Panthers haven’t had their All-Pro running back in the lineup since he went off in Week 2 with a high ankle sprain. But he is back at practice and apparently raring to go.

Putting too much on McCaffrey’s shoulders early might not be the smart way to go. But the Panthers wouldn’t be risking their face of the franchise unless he was close to 100 percent.

Providing the former first-round pick proves his fitness ahead of the contest, then he will be tasked with giving the offense a strong threat in the running game that hasn’t been there over the last two weeks.

Mike Davis has performed well in McCaffrey’s absence on the whole, but he’s been relatively ineffective during the team’s current slump. The Chiefs will no doubt alter their defensive scheme accordingly and the onus will be on linebacker Anthony Hitchens to make sure he is around the ball consistently once the best dual-threat back in the NFL gets to the second level.

Hitchens has been a solid if not spectacular performer this season. Kansas City does have an impressive front seven overall, but this represents a good opportunity for McCaffrey to thrive – providing Carolina’s offensive line puts him in a strong position to succeed.