The Carolina Panthers have done a solid job of staying afloat without running back Christian McCaffrey in the mix. Fortunately, it appears the centerpiece of their offense is nearing a return.

McCaffrey has been sidelined since Week 2 with an ankle sprain. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the team is targeting a return in Week 8 versus the Atlanta Falcons:

The prospect of McCaffrey being able to return at the halfway point of the season would undoubtedly provide a major boost down the stretch. Of course, it is safe to assume that Carolina will continue to monitor both his recovery and the team’s chances at potentially competing for a playoff spot to determine a firm timetable.

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The Panthers can relish in the fact that they have managed to get by at 3-1 since McCaffrey went down with the injury. Despite his struggles during the 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears, running back Mike Davis has done an overall stellar job of filling the void left in the backfield by flashing his versatility with 272 rushing yards and 32 receptions for 209 yards.

With McCaffrey still expected to miss their Week 7 showdown versus the New Orleans Saints, the offense will be relying heavily on Davis once again in what very well could be his last week in the workhorse role. Carolina already dropped their first visional matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when their star running back went down. They have an opportunity to make a big statement while staying in the mix for the NFC South.