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Barner may play part in playoff push


I was wondering: With the Jonathan Stewart injury, are we going to see more of Kenjon Barner? – Alex in Orlando, Fla.

In one regard, yes.

"Kenjon was down last week," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday, "but he will be up to give us an opportunity to use his abilities."

Barner has been inactive for seven of the Panthers' first 13 games but should be active at the least while Stewart recovers from a knee injury suffered at New Orleans. Barner was last active in Week 13 when DeAngelo Williams was out with a quad injury. The rookie rushed five times, mostly after the outcome was decided. When Stewart missed the first seven games of the season, Barner totaled one carry and two catches, in part because he had some injury concerns of his own.

The Panthers believe the future is bright for Barner, who rushed for 3,623 yards and 41 touchdowns at Oregon despite being a full-time starter just one season. But while the absence of Stewart could create more chances, it could just mean more carries for Williams and Mike Tolbert.

"He hasn't gotten a lot of opportunities because of the backs that we do have, but when he is out there, he's showing me some burst and quickness," Rivera said.

What kind of tiebreaker help will the Panthers need to win the NFC South title if they split wins with the Saints? – Rick in Wanchese, N.C.

If the teams finish tied atop the NFC South, there's just one very specific way the Panthers win the tiebreaker. If Carolina loses to the New York Jets this week but beats the Saints and Falcons, they'd finish 11-5, 5-1 in division. If the Saints beat St. Louis this week but lose to the Panthers and Buccaneers, they'd finish 11-5, 4-2 in the division. The Panthers would win the NFC South by virtue of having a better division record.

Otherwise, the Saints would own the tiebreaker in any other combination of outcomes that results in both teams having the same overall record. In any scenario in which teams finish with the same overall record and same division record, the Saints would capture the division either based on the third tiebreaker (best record in common games) or the fourth tiebreaker (best record in conference games).

The best-case scenario for the Panthers is to not bring the tiebreaker into play by winning out and hoping the Saints lose one of their other two remaining games. And by the way, Carolina can clinch a playoff berth this week with a victory and losses by Arizona, San Francisco and either Philadelphia or Dallas.

If the Panthers end up being a wild card team, can we still have a home game in the playoffs? – Robert in Davidson, N.C.

Technically yes, but it's not a very likely scenario.

From 1990-2001, when each conference featured three division winners and three wild cards, a wild card team hosted a first-round game every year because the top two wild card teams faced each other while the other wild card team traveled to face a division winner. But since the NFL realigned and went to four divisions in each conference beginning in 2002, the only way a wild card team can host a playoff game is if both wild cards win a pair of road games and advance to the conference championship. So it would be possible for the Panthers as the highest-seeded wild card team to host a playoff game – specifically the NFC Championship – but it's yet to happen in the 22 instances it's been possible.


Why can't I find a Greg Olsen jersey in the team store? – Bill in Littleton, N.C.

Because Greg is wearing it (cymbals clang).

Seriously though, I wasn't aware that there weren't any Olsen jerseys available in the team store at Bank of America Stadium, but I know you can purchase them online. For that matter, any player's jersey can be purchased online, or you can get a jersey with your real name, your pet name or even your pet's name for that matter at

How fast can I receive the Panthers' 2014 schedule so I can arrange flights and hotel reservations to come to a game? – Lorethea in Homewood, Ala.

We look forward to you visiting but can't yet tell you when we'll be home in 2014. Typically, the schedule is released by the NFL in mid-April.

I can share some things about who the Panthers will play at home – their three division foes, plus Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The other home opponent will be the NFC West team that finishes in the same spot in the standings as the Panthers finish in the NFC South.

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