INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts have an uphill climb this week when they travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys and Micah Parsons, the favorite for the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award.
That climb just got a little steeper, too.
Indianapolis has ruled right tackle Braden Smith out for Sunday night's game due to an illness. Coach Jeff Saturday declined to reveal who the backup would be, but it's possible the Colts start Dennis Kelly, who was originally the team's swing tackle before he became a starter on the left side for two games. The other option would be Matt Pryor, who started one game at right tackle against the Broncos before the Colts moved him inside.
Smith was a major reason the Colts were able to hold reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt without a sack last week, as Watt rushed almost exclusively from the right side.
With third-round rookie Bernhard Raimann starting at left tackle, Indianapolis faces quite the challenge against Parsons, who has 12 sacks; along with a Cowboys team that leads the NFL with 45 sacks on the year.
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"When I watch him on tape, the thing that separates him from a lot of people is he can do it from every position," Saturday said of Parsons. "He can be lined up on your left side, your right side, at linebacker. You can move him anywhere and everywhere, and it's not like he's really out of position. If he has to play a true linebacker, he can do it. If he has to walk and be an edge player, he can do it. If he has to be a guy who has to stop a zone read, he can do it."
The Colts are also ruling out Pro Bowl cornerback Kenny Moore II, who has been on a scooter this week after suffering an ankle injury in last week's loss to the Steelers. The Colts are taking his absence by the week but haven't ruled out a move to injured reserve.
Rookie tight end Jelani Woods is questionable after missing two days of practice with shoulder and quad issues, though he returned to practice Friday. Woods is coming off his best game as a pro, with eight catches for 98 yards against Pittsburgh.
Cornerback Isaiah Rodgers Sr. is also questionable after developing a knee injury in Thursday's practice. He was back to a full participant by Friday.
Indianapolis will have defensive end Kwity Paye back after he missed the past two games with an ankle injury. He'll be key for a pass rush that will look to get after Dak Prescott and a run defense that will try to contain Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott.
Indianapolis is trying to keep its season alive with a 4-7-1 record, though the schedule gets difficult starting this week. The Colts have four straight games against playoff contenders in the Cowboys, Vikings, Chargers and Giants, with three of them on the road.
The Cowboys have listed five players as questionable: cornerback Trevon Diggs, wide receiver Michael Gallup, linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Jayron Kearse and defensive tackle Quinton Bohanna.
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts will have to block Michah Parsons without Braden Smith