The Bills travel to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and they could be without several key starters which will already hurt their poor chances for a victory. Today’s post will review the injuries going into the game, who could be expected to play, and how this affects the Bills overall.
Already ruled out is DE Shaq Lawson (hamstring). The 3rd year end suffered a hamstring strain in the 4th quarter of the season opener against the Ravens chasing down QB Joe Flacco. Since then, Lawson has not been able to practice, already missing one game. Unfortunately, strains such as hamstrings are common in early season games that reduce in frequency as the season progresses. It is possible Lawson returns to playing next week against the Packers based on expected healing time frames but no guarantee.
Those ruled questionable include RB Taiwan Jones (head), RB LeSean McCoy (ribs), WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee), CB Phillip Gaines (elbow), and CB Taron Johnson (shoulder). Out of this group, I expect McCloud and Johnson to play based on their previous injuries and time frame to rehab. Recapping, McCloud injured his left knee in the preseason win over the Bears and Johnson injured his right shoulder during the season opener. McCloud’s knee appears to be a sprain and possibly the same goes for Johnson with his shoulder. Both have had an opportunity to recover and the fact that they both practiced in full Friday gives me hope that they will be available.
McCoy, Gaines, and Jones are less likely to play, though if this were later in the season, could be available to play. As mentioned last week, McCoy suffered a rib cartilage injury when C Ryan Groy fell on him towards the end of the play. While this injury is slow to heal due to a poor blood supply and covers a wider area than a broken rib would, he can still play in the face of it all. However, teams will be keying for him despite protective padding which could end his day early. I do not believe he should play in order to give his body the ability to rest, but he may try suiting up anyway. If he can’t go, RB Chris Ivory and RB Marcus Murphy will carry the load.
CB Phillip Gaines suffered a dislocated elbow during a tackle which required training staff to reduce the dislocation. He was reported to have heavy protective padding on the right elbow and was limited in practice this week. He could hypothetically play Sunday as the elbow joint is very stable when it comes to movement, but soft tissue in the area along with corresponding muscles may make playing difficult due to limited range of motion due to swelling/pain, reducing his effectiveness. He would essentially be a one armed cornerback. It would be best to let his elbow rest one more week before attempting to play due to the nature of the position.
Finally, RB Taiwan Jones suffered that gruesome cut to his forehead in the end zone during Sunday’s loss. Fortunately, he did not suffer a concussion but just the cut which required stitches. He could also play but even with a helmet, a hard hit could re-open that wound and cause further complications. While his loss on special teams will be felt, one week off will allow him to come back 100% next week.
Overall, expect Johnson and McCloud to play, expect Gaines and Jones to miss, and for McCoy to attempt to play though he may be overall ineffective. While this was one of the more injurious weeks for the Bills in recent seasons, they still have the appropriate depth right now to stay competitive. Once the starters go down for long periods of time as in previous seasons, then the Bills will truly be in trouble. As a realistic Bills fan, I am not expecting a win against the Vikings as they are considered a Super Bowl contender this year, I still expect a competitive game from the Bills as they attempt to find their identity for the 2018 season. If they play how they did in the 2nd half of the Chargers game, things may be okay. I do not expect the Bills to roll over like they did against the Ravens.
This wraps up the injury preview for Sunday’s game. Continue to check back for the latest injury updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!