Steve Smith injury: Panthers WR out vs. Falcons

Streeter Lecka

Cam Newton will be without his favorite target in Week 17.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith will miss the game on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons due to a PCL sprain, according to Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer.

Smith initially said he heard a "pop" in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints, but an MRI revealed the injury wasn't as serious as first expected. There's a chance he'll be ready for the Panthers' first playoff game, should they play in the Wild Card round -- but he will be rested in Week 17.

The Panthers offense struggled without Smith in Week 16. It took some late-game heroics by Cam Newton to pull the team back to win against the Saints, but it was clear the team did not have a plan to mitigate the lack of its veteran receiver.

Brandon LaFell will become the focal point against Atlanta after being a third target behind Smith and tight end Greg Olsen for much of the year. He has 627 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2013, needing 51 yards to eclipse his career high.

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