Panthers DE Johnson week-to-week with MCL sprain

The Carolina Panthers received a piece of good news on Tuesday — just one night removed from a signature victory for the franchise — when it was revealed that defensive end Charles Johnson only incurred a sprained MCL against New England.

Johnson was leg-whipped by Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon in the third quarter of Monday’s game and immediately went down to the ground, writhing in pain.

At first blush, Johnson’s injury appeared to be serious, perhaps season-ending. But after submitting to an MRI on Tuesday, club officials were happy to report Johnson could possibly return to the Panthers’ starting lineup in the next week or two.

If the NFC playoffs started today, the 7-3 Panthers would hold the No. 5 seed — serving as the top wild-card entrant. However, Carolina only trails 8-2 New Orleans by a single game … with the NFC South rivals set for two head-to-head encounters in Weeks 14 (at Saints) and 16 (at Panthers).

For this rebound campaign, the Panthers — winners of six straight games, just one short of the franchise record — have remained above the fray, regarding injuries to star players.

And with Johnson (8.5 sacks) being a reasonable bet for both Panthers-Saints clashes in December, the stars are seemingly aligned for Carolina to have its full complement of playmakers for the stretch run.