CHARLOTTE – The Panthers enter the winner-take-all NFC South showdown against the Atlanta Falcons with only two injuries of concern.
Running back DeAngelo Williams has practiced in full all week and is probable, but head coach Ron Rivera wants to see him make strides in pass protection and as a pass-catcher prior to kickoff Sunday. Williams hasn't played since he fractured his hand at Minnesota in Week 13. Rivera confirmed that running back Jonathan Stewart will start against the Falcons.
Linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) was limited for the third consecutive day on Friday, leaving him questionable.
"There's always concern when a guy has limited practice on Friday, in my eyes," Rivera said.
Undrafted rookie linebacker Adarius Glanton filled in for Klein last week against the Cleveland Browns, and gathered six tackles.
"It wasn't too big for (Adarius)," Rivera said.
Sunday's game is about as big as it gets with two teams facing off for the division title and the ability to extend their season.
After admitting his emotions got the best of him in last year's NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Rivera was asked if he has any concern about his team's ability to handle what will assuredly be an emotionally charged game against the rival Falcons.
"It should be understood," Rivera said. "It's an emotional football game. We get it. Our players understand that. They know exactly what's at stake. For me to sit there and reiterate and try to take away their aggressive nature – I'm not going to do that. I want them to be physical, and they know they need to be smart."