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.