Carolina Panthers star wide receiver Steve Smith needed to undergo an MRI today after suffering a left knee injury early in yesterday’s 17-13 win over the rival New Orleans Saints, and my immediate reaction was that Smith suffered a PCL sprain on the play. It’s the same injury that James Jones suffered in Week 6, and it varies in degree. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera announced today that Smith’s injury is indeed a PCL sprain, and he stated that Smith’s status for next week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons is very doubtful.
It sounds like Smith would be back in time for a potential divisional round game, so the Panthers will have to hope that they can secure a bye week. A date with the Falcons horrid offensive line and defense should do just the trick, and the Panthers win over the Saints yesterday looks even more important with Smith’s injury in mind.
Losing Smith for a prolonged period of time would have been a crippling blow, since No. 1 receivers have an incredibly huge impact on the effectiveness of a quarterback and the offense as a whole. I mean, just look at the San Francisco 49ers offense without Michael Crabtree or the Indianapolis Colts drop in offensive efficiency after Reggie Wayne tore his ACL.
Smith has 64 receptions for 745 yards and four touchdowns, but his ability to free up other players to make plays is where he has his greatest impact. In the Panthers “spread the ball around” passing attack, the stats of the No. 1 receiver aren’t as important as the trickle-down impact.