The Carolina Panthers may have clinched a postseason birth, but they still have plenty to play for come Sunday afternoon.
A win (combined with a Seattle loss) could launch them to the one seed in the NFC or a loss (combined with a San Francisco and New Orleans victory) could drop them all the way to sixth.
Needless to say, Carolina will be doing everything they can to secure a victory when they travel to the Georgia Dome this weekend but they’ll be without wide receiver Steve Smith who was officially ruled out by the team.
Smith sprained his left knee during Carolina’s 17-13 win over New Orleans last Sunday. The win assured the Panthers a playoff spot, but this week’s game looms even larger. Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South division title and a first-round bye by beating the Falcons.
“Steve has actually improved a lot,” Rivera said. “In Steve’s way he basically said if I had to I would play this weekend. He probably couldn’t, but he would try.”
The good news is Smith doesn’t appear to be in danger of missing Carolina’s opening playoff game, no matter if that be a Divisional contest or a Wild Card game.