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Steve Smith active, Jonathan Stewart, Carlos Rogers out

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Steve Smith is active on Sunday for Carolina.
Steve Smith is active on Sunday for Carolina.(USATSI)

CHARLOTTE, NC -- Bottom line, 89 is gonna play. Steve Smith is active for the Panthers for Sunday's Divisional Round game against the 49ers. And he won't have to face the 49ers top corner, as Carlos Rogers is inactive.

Also inactive is Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart.

The biggest news is Smith. With him playing -- as expected -- Cam Newton gets to target his top weapon and the Panthers offense becomes a lot more diverse. No offense to Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell, but the Panthers need Smith on the field.

San Francisco missing Rogers doesn't hamper the top portion of their defense (that would be the front seven, featuring Justin Smith and Aldon Smith rushing Newton and the dynamic combo of NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis at linebacker). But it should have a trickle-down effect on the Panthers ability to push the ball down the field.

Tarrell Brown and Tramaine Brock now have coverage duty with Rogers missing his second-straight game with a hamstring injury.

In terms of the running game, the Panthers will lean on DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert with Stewart out. Stewart was listed as questionable throughout the week and couldn't get far enough along to make it in time for the game.

Losing Stewart is a worthwhile tradeoff if it keeps Smith on the field for Carolina.

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