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Christian McCaffrey Active For Panthers, Sam Darnold Starting At QB Vs. Patriots

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Carolina Panthers have their top offensive weapon available on Sunday against the Patriots. They also have their top quarterback.

The Panthers activated running back Christian McCaffrey from injured reserve on Saturday, making him eligible to play on Sunday if the team deemed him healthy and ready to go.

Sure enough, the Panthers determined McCaffrey is healthy enough to play, as he was not on the team's inactive list.

McCaffrey has been out since Week 3 with a hamstring injury. He had been practicing this week, but his activation on Saturday at least indicates that he has a good chance to play vs. the Patriots.

The team will also have Sam Darnold in uniform ...  and under center on Sunday. Darnold was a limited participant in practice all week, after he suffered a concussion and an injury to his throwing shoulder last week against the Falcons. Darnold cleared concussion protocol on Saturday, meaning his shoulder issue is all that could prevent him from playing.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Darnold "at minimum" will be able to serve in a backup role but the Panthers have "hopes that he'll start and play the entire game."

ESPN's Adam Schefter later reported that the team plans for Darnold to start, barring a pregame setback.

And after pregame warmups, Darnold was indeed good to go.

Darnold's passing numbers aren't overly impressive, as he's averaging 6.6 yards per attempt, completing 60.6 percent of his passes, while throwing seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. (He does have five rushing touchdowns this season, matching his total from his first three seasons combined.)

But Darnold nevertheless represents the Panthers' best option. P.J. Walker (one touchdown, five interceptions in his seven NFL games) would be next in line, followed by practice squad QB James Morgan.

Darnold started three games vs. the Patriots during his time with the Jets, losing all three games while throwing one touchdown and six interceptions.

UPDATE: Darnold and McCaffrey both played. Darnold threw three interceptions and no touchdowns. McCaffrey had 52 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards. The Panthers lost 24-6.

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