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Panthers anxious to have Olsen and Kalil back

(Photo by Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are riding a three-game winning streak and they're coming off the bye week in the schedule.

And now things could be getting even better for the second-place team in the NFC South.

The Panthers go into Sunday's road game against the New York Jets with a couple of veterans likely ready to return to action.

Tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil have been at practice this week and they are on target to play again.

"I think it will be a very big boost, especially what they do on the offensive side of the ball," head coach Ron Rivera said.

The Panthers have a 7-3 record, already eclipsing the victory total from last year's 6-10 team. This figures to be a key week for Carolina because the Jets are one of only two remaining opponents currently possessing a losing record.

"I think things are lining up for us, but we still have to do something with it," said Olsen, who figures to be ready to return to action this weekend after missing a couple of months with a broken foot.

With the likelihood that Olsen is back on the field, the Panthers don't want to dismiss what tight end Ed Dickson has shown. At times, he was a standout while he was serving as a starter.

"Now you have guys with different skill sets and you can use different parts," Rivera said.

The rushing attack started clicking to various degrees the past couple of games. That's something that can be attributed to the offensive line providing the holes.

"Ultimately, it's just guys making plays," running back Jonathan Stewart said. "Everyone is contributing to being physical up front."

The Panthers have rushed for more than 200 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.

This coincides well with the strong play provided by quarterback Cam Newton, who has contributed to the rushing attack and seems back on track in the passing attack despite some moving parts in terms of his receiving targets.

Newton said he has been comfortable in how the offense has executed.

"For us, (it's important) coming out each and every play and having that mentality that we want to maximize each and every opportunity that we get," Newton said. "There are just certain things that we're capable of."

With all the discussion regarding the offense, it's worth noting that the Panthers have the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL. The Jets rank 25th on offense, so this might be where the Panthers hold the biggest advantage.

SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 3-3. This will be the first meeting since 2013.

--Running back Christian McCaffrey's role as a punt and/or kickoff returner could increase with the season-ending injury to WR Curtis Samuel, head coach Ron Rivera said. Reviewing the options to filling Samuel's roles was something the Panthers were intent on studying during their bye week. "We've got a number of guys we can turn to, along with Christian obviously," Rivera said.

Wide receiver Kaelin Clay on punt returns and running back Fozzy Whittaker on kickoff returns also could be part of the solution.

There figures to be more options in another week when wide receiver Damiere Byrd is eligible to return to action.

--Tight end Greg Olsen has been full-speed ahead in his recovery from a broken bone in his foot. He has been pleased with how his return to practice has gone.

"I feel good about going out there and taking the next step," Olsen said. "I feel pretty confident that it will be OK."

Olsen is first eligible to return to action this week against the New York Jets. He said all along that he figured he would be ready by that targeted date.

"I think things are working out well," he said.

NOTES: QB Derek Anderson, who is the top backup, was back at practice Wednesday following an absence because of illness. ... QB Garrett Gilbert, who is the team's No. 3 quarterback, missed Monday's practice because of illness but was back at work Wednesday. ... S Jairus Byrd had an interception during practice off quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, who filled in when the team's two backup quarterbacks missed a day of practice because of illness. The Panthers turned to Dorsey because they are being careful about the number of balls thrown by QB Cam Newton. ... CB Captain Munnerlyn didn't practice Wednesday because of illness.

Updated November 22, 2017

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