Panthers WR Steve Smith has PCL sprain, likely out in Week 17

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

Steve Smith has to be helped off the field during the first half against New Orleans. (USATSI)
Steve Smith has to be helped off the field during the first half against New Orleans. (USATSI)

The Carolina Panthers likely won't have wide receiver Steve Smith for Sunday's season finale in Atlanta, but he could be back for the playoffs. Coach Ron Rivera announced on Monday that Smith sprained his PCL during Carolina's win over New Orleans and that Smith would be highly doubtful to play this week.

"It was very good news considering the alternative," Rivera said. "Where he sprained it and how lack of severity there was, that was all positive news. It really was. And I'm excited and very happy with Steve."

Smith's status is week-to-week at this point, which makes Sunday's game in Atlanta big for the Panthers. If Carolina can beat the Falcons without Smith, the Panthers would earn a first-round bye, which would give their star wide receiver an extra week to heal.

The 34-year-old receiver injured his knee in the first half against New Orleans and left the game after tallying one catch for 44 yards. Smith is second on the team behind Greg Olsen in both receptions and receiving yards with 64 catches for 745 yards.

The Panthers have a locked up a playoff spot, but if they lose to Atlanta, that playoff spot could end up being a wild-card slot. If Carolina loses and New Orleans wins in Week 17, the Panthers could drop all the way down to the No. 6 seed in the NFC.

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