3 potential problems facing the Panthers vs. Saints in Week 17

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Michael Schofield
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) Michael Schofield /
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Carolina Panthers
(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /

Lack of a running game

The Carolina Panthers have been without their star running back Christian McCaffrey for almost the entire season. The former first-round pick has featured in just three games throughout the campaign and there is just no telling what their record would look like had they been able to utilize their best offensive weapon more often in close contests.

Not only do the Panthers have to cope with McCaffrey’s absence in their season finale against the Saints. But they will also be lacking the presence of primary backup Mike Davis.

The veteran has a knock that won’t be risked with relatively little to play for other than pride and this is another substantial dent in Carolina’s bid to gain yards on the ground against one of the NFL’s stingiest run defenses.

That might also be all she wrote for Davis in Carolina, with the player set to hit the free-agent market this spring.

Undrafted rookie Rodney Smith will get more responsibility than he’s ever had before, which could make all the difference in his bid to extend his stay in Carolina. Trenton Cannon and Curtis Samuel could also get additional work out of the backfield. But if they cannot gain sufficient yardage it is going to pile even more pressure on Teddy Bridgewater to get the job done through the air.