We should note that Austin Rivers was playing quite well before injury claimed him, too.

Left tackle Tyron Smith had to miss almost another whole game Sunday against Seattle, and although it didn’t quite turn into the Atlanta game with Adrian Clayborn operating his own turnstile, the Cowboys missed Smith greatly against the Seahawks’ swarming edge rush.

Smith, banged up for much of the season, wasn’t his same, elite self when playing. At right tackle, La’el Collins wasn’t an adequate replacement for retired stalwart Doug Free. Left guard had a shaky final answer in retreat Jonathan Cooper. A team that was used to having five studs up front was down to two, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin.

But perhaps the biggest reason for L.A.’s timely turnaround has been Lou Williams, who is scoring like crazy (including 33 on Tuesday in a win over Memphis and 40 the other night against Charlotte) and proving to be one of the best cheap pickups of the summer. Williams is the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week. He’s only making $7 million this year.

Jameis Winston is coming off his best game of the season, but on a short week, it looks like he’ll be short a few weapons. Cam Newton is locked and loaded with his array of wonderful toys, led by Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers should also be able to run all over Tampa Bay’s depleted front.

He’ll move around and gun-sling to make a few big plays, but overall, San Francisco’s offense will be contained by Jacksonville’s superb pass rush and secondary. Blake Bortles will keep rolling on the other side, even on a long road trip.

The Steelers won’t have Antonio Brown, but they’ll have plenty of frustrations from the Patriots game to take out on the Texans. Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster are enough weapons to drive Houston’s awful run defense batty. The Texans have DeAndre Hopkins, but pretty much nothing else is working.

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Brown is on the cusp of becoming the first player to ever register 100-plus catches in five consecutive seasons.

He already holds the record for most overall catches and receiving yards in any five-year span and will continue adding to that total through the 2017 campaign.

If the Steelers play him extensively down the stretch, Brown has an outside chance of becoming the first receiver to ever record a 2,000-yard season. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson has come closest with 1,964 yards in 2012.

LaVar essentially ran former Chino Hills High School head coach Stephan Gilling out of town with constant nagging and criticism about how he was running the team and coaching the Ball brothers. Once their feud became public, Chino Hills dropped Gilling as their coach.

He also pulled LaMelo out of Chino Hills partially because LaVar asked new coach Dennis Latimore to add four new players to their roster to play with his son and Latimore refused to do so.

Clearly, LaVar is a father who wants to have input on how his sons are coached, who they play with, and what they do on the court.

Turnover Patriots. The Steelers bring pressure on a third-and-2 play. Brady stays in the pocket and attempts to loft a pass to James White. But his throw is picked off by Steelers linebacker Vince Williams, who returns it to the Patriots’ 22.

The Steelers advance near midfield but are forced to punt after Roethlisberger fails to connect with Le’Veon Bell on a third-down pass. The Patriots will take over at their 11.

Touchdown, Patriots. Brady finds Brandin Cooks in the end zone for a 4-yard score three plays after New England’s fourth down conversion. But Stephen Gostkowski misses the extra point and the Patriots trail 17-16.

If there’s a problem with Ayton at Arizona, it might be that he loves his face-up game too much. No one can stop him inside at the college level, so it’s hard to blame Sean Miller if he would prefer him to live in the paint.

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He last tweeted in April and he hasn’t posted on Instagram since May

His older brother, Averion Jr., was the more outspoken one in the family, constantly butting heads with their father, who coached them both at Channelview. Hurts was more reserved. He listened closely and soaked up his surroundings without the slightest hint of reaction.

Coach Saban will be telling me something and he’ll be like, ‘I know you think I’m crazy,’ Hurts said. I’m like, ‘No, Coach, I don’t think you’re crazy. Remember, my dad was my coach and that’s a whole different ballgame.’

I mean, what the hell are you supposed to say as a player here? It sounds like whoever our culprit is told Ewing he does indeed practice that shot. That was his second mistake. The first was taking that shot in the first place.

I bet you whoever he was won’t be taking that shot anymore. He might be riding the bench.

Once the eyewitnesses die, a lot of weird stuff gets remembered, and a lot of stuff that seemed important at the time gets forgotten. I got to wondering what history will remember about 2017 — what a late-21st century kid raised on baseball trivia books, This Date In History radio segments and her granddad’s memories will know about this past season. To answer that requires first figuring out what gets remembered and why.

So, with the help of a few smart baseball friends, I charted 114 years of baseball by the single most memorable fact of each season — the one thing a fairly serious baseball fan has probably heard of from that year.

Houston beat Orlando without James Harden, who missed his first game since his hamstring injury on New Year’s Eve and is expected to miss several more. A contributing factor? Newly signed Gerald Green playing in just his fourth game with the team.

Green led Houston in scoring with 27 points on 7-of-10 shooting from deep, and the 31-year-old is looking like a perfect fit in the shooter-friendly Mike D’Antoni system. That should be obviously, right? Seriously, a union between these two — Green and D’Antoni — is long overdue.

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Could a lingering injury impact Victor Oladipo’s chances at snagging an All-Star spot?

Damian Lillard has missed Portland’s last five games with a strained hamstring, but the Blazers have gotten huge shots from unexpected places in his absence. They’re 3-2, with each of their wins decided by one or two possessions. In the final five minutes with the score within five points, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner are a combined 5-for-5 from deep. — Vincent Johnson

After Rick Carlisle’s rather bellicose comments on LaVar Ball, Steve Kerr came with a thoughtful sermon on ESPN’s priorities, which included shouting out two laid-off ESPN journalists. Meanwhile, I argue that the Lakers are doing everyone a favor by essentially ignoring the guy.

Last bit on this guy, hopefully for a few weeks. I have a Twitter list made up solely of major NBA reporters and columnists from ESPN and other outlets. I check it every morning. With a brief break to laud Alabama’s freshman quarterback, that entire timeline was devoted to LaVar Ball on Monday, despite near unanimous agreement among those reporters with Kerr’s sentiment that reporters are spending too much time talking about Ball.

If you want to stop talking about LaVar Ball…maybe try stop talking about LaVar Ball. (Now I’m going to stop talking about LaVar Ball for a little while. Probably. Maybe.)

So that’s his mindset. He understands it. He doesn’t get caught up in the hype. He’s not going to be eaten by the monster of Alabama. Because he knows at the end of the day, the accolades and all of those things can leave quickly.

As the top-rated dual-threat QB prospect in Texas, Hurts could have easily stayed in Big 12 country and run the same Air Raid system he grew up in. It suited him well, having amassed 51 touchdowns in 11 games as a high school senior.

But Hurts wanted a new challenge. Although he initially wondered whether he was good enough — Saban and all those championships felt like a myth, he said — the phone eventually rang.

Nick Saban just offered me a scholarship? he said. It was like, dang. But then you put your two feet in it and you’re like, ‘Wow, they’re normal.’

Hurts enrolled early in December of 2015 as the Tide were preparing to face Clemson in the national championship game, and his first assignment was to mimic Deshaun Watson for the scout team.

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Atlanta is 7-2 at home against the Panthers since the start of the 2008 season.

The Seahawks host the Cardinals, who already have lost five road games this season. Seattle enters this weekend with a 4-3 record at CenturyLink Field. They have not lost four home games in a season since 2011.

So, which team will earn the final playoff berth?

The Falcons were hurt a bit by Carolina edging out the Bucs late last week, giving them a reason to play. Atlanta running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have 500-plus rushing yards and seven-plus total touchdowns this season, the second straight year they have done that.

Seattle has a much easier game, but it doesn’t control its destiny. If the Seahawks and Falcons win, Seattle misses the playoffs. The odds are against the Seahawks this week, considering the Falcons are at home against a depleted Panthers team.

In fact, considering Mayfield was now skipping a fourth Rose Bowl event due to some mysterious illness, the chatter had only amplified.

Where was he, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was asked? How sick was he? Would he actually have to sit out the CFP semifinal against Georgia on Monday?

Finally, Mayfield decided it was time to make an appearance. And, as far as college football news conferences go, what an appearance it was.

Mayfield hailed a driver from the team hotel two miles away and arrived at the L.A. Hotel Downtown, where the rest of the Sooners had been assembled for media day for close to half an hour.

Up in the second-floor ballroom, Oklahoma backup quarterback Kyler Murray had a growing horde of reporters circling his table, pecking away at the unbelievable possibility that he might have to start in place of the Heisman Trophy winner in one of the biggest games in school history. Murray kept saying he’d be ready to start, likely knowing full well he wouldn’t need to.

At that moment, a growing buzz could be heard coming from the nearby corner, where Mayfield’s previously empty podium seat had unexpectedly been filled by the most important player of the CFP.

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Impending free agent Eric Reid ‘fine’ with teams shunning him due to kneeling

49ers safety Eric Reid is headed toward unrestricted free agency this offseason, and he could face some difficulty finding a team.

Reid, one of the biggest advocates of former teammate Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling, realizes he too could find it difficult to find a new team after kneeling himself during the anthem.

I wouldn’t use the word concerned, I would say I understand that’s a possibility, Reid said regarding the prospect of teams refusing to sign him this offseason, via ESPN.com. And I’m completely fine with it. The things that I’ve done, I stand by, and I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said, I’m fine with whatever outcome happens because of that.

Reid, a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, has spent each of his five NFL seasons in San Francisco. He has 10 career interceptions and one sack. He has also recorded at least 60 tackles in four out of five years.

There are probably teams that won’t want to talk to me because of it (kneeling), he said. I’m hopeful that I will be on a team next year, but if not, again, that’s OK with me.

The 49ers (5-10) have won four straight games and are expected to be well under the salary cap next season. Despite offloading a few pieces before this season’s trade deadline, San Francisco projects to be aggressive during free agency to once again build a contending team.

Over the previous two seasons, as he ascended to the Oilers starting goaltender throne, Talbot posted an .884 save percentage on the penalty kill. That’s pretty close to the league-wide average and ranked 16th among 60 goaltenders who started at least 25 games during those seasons. However, Talbot has allowed 23 power-play goals on 98 shots for a penalty-kill save percentage of .810 so far this season. He’s an ideal candidate for a positive regression. All things considered, his .905 save percentage this season is pretty good considering how much damage he’s taken on the penalty kill. If his penalty-kill save percentage was at the magical .875 mark, his overall save percentage would be .914. Interestingly, defenseman Andrej Sekera, who was second on the team in short-handed ice time last season, just returned to action in late December. It could be a good time to get Talbot for the stretch run.

Someone has to step up with Mark Scheifele on the shelf for up to two months. Early indications are that Connor is going to share some of the load. Through two games with no Scheifele, the Jets moved Patrik Laine to the top line with Blake Wheeler and Connor. For his part, Connor has two points in each of those two games. His rostered percentage has been creeping up in recent weeks and should take a spike soon, but if you act now, he’s still available in almost three quarters of ESPN leagues.

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