It’s Patriots week! The two times during the season where the Bills play the New England Patriots, a team that has spent two decades tormenting the Bills. But the winds have shifted as they do so often in Orchard Park, this time, in favor of the Bills. The Patriots enter this contest 2-4, the Bills 5-2 with a chance for Buffalo to lock down the AFC East at the midway point of the season. One thing that could stop that is the ever growing list of injuries. Despite the Bills avoiding any in game injuries, there were six new injuries to the report which makes determining who will play all that much tougher. Below is the multitude of injuries.
G Cody Ford (Right knee)
Ford was ruled out Friday morning during Sean McDermott’s press conference. He appears to be dealing with a right MCL sprain suffered in the loss to the Chiefs. I had said this was a 2-3 week injury and thought he would be best served to get a stint on IR.
The team elected to not go that route and he appears to be trending to try and play in Week 9 despite not practicing the past two weeks. We will see what happens following the Patriots game.
CB Josh Norman (Left hamstring)
Norman misses his 5th game now due to his balky left hamstring injury suffered in training camp. The severity of this latest injury is not known but considering this is the same side and a re-injury, the team is making sure he is absolutely 100% before trotting him back out onto the field.
Defensive backs are already at a higher rate to suffer hamstring strains and then add in the previous injury, this makes for a rough season for Norman. Hopefully he can resume practicing next week.
G Brian Winters (Knee)
Winters appeared back on the injury report again with a knee injury though it isn’t clear when he suffered the injury. He played in 97% of snaps indicating that this may not be serious. While it’s not know which side is injured, he did show up on the injury report following the Raiders game with a knee complaint then.
He is an older player that plays a very physical position; he may need the rest from time to time and this may be more of a load management issue. While he is questionable, he did practice in full on Friday which is a good indicator that he should play. I would hope that he rotates with G Jon Feliciano or whoever else plays.
DT Vernon Butler (Groin)
Butler was a surprise on the injury report with a groin injury that wasn’t readily noticed on film from Sunday. He was a DNP for 2 straight days after being limited Wednesday.
While he is an interior line player at defensive tackle, I believe it would be hard for him to generate any power to shed blocks or quickly change direction to tackle a back in the running lane. He has already dealt with a hamstring injury this season and would be best served to sit this one out.
S Micah Hyde (Concussion)
Hyde was eventually diagnosed with a concussion following his bone crushing hit on Jets WR Breshard Perriman. It’s not certain he suffered the concussion from this hit, but it’s a very strong guess. He likely developed symptoms later on, sending him into the concussion protocol.
He was out at practice this week but stayed off to the side on the exercise bike, indicating he was in Stage 2-3. He is listed as questionable indicating the team may try to have him pass the protocol in time for the game Sunday.
I don’t anticipate he plays based on the fact that concussions take some time to heal. Literature suggests it takes on average 10 days to return but we have seen players return quicker than that and in other cases much longer. I’m also not certain how he goes through live football reps to ensure he doesn’t have any symptom reproduction afterward as part of the protocol as he didn’t practice this week.
There’s always a chance he could pass the evaluation, but it would be a truly impressive to pass through this quickly. I say he misses this contest.
DE Jerry Hughes (Foot)
Hughes made a surprise appearance on the injury report this week with a foot designation. Despite the injury, he was a terror on the field as he garnered AFC Defensive Player of the Week. With the lack of specifics of what he did to the foot, it’s hard to say what he’s dealing with. Looking back, he has played with far worse injuries and still produced. He has yet to miss a game in a Bills uniform; I don’t expect that to change Sunday.
DT Quinton Jefferson (Knee)
Jefferson also made an appearance on the injury report with a knee ailment. Like most of the injuries, it’s not clear when he suffered the injury, making specifics difficult to discuss. Considering he practiced in full on Friday and with the likely inactive coming for Butler, I’m leaning towards Jefferson playing.
CB Cam Lewis (Left wrist)
Lewis is still battling with a wrist injury that saw him active last week but not play. He was limited all again this week and is questionable. He continues to have the club on his hand which has me believe this may be more than a sprain. He may have fractured a bone in his wrist and simply needs time to heal. If he is looking at a fracture, it could be a 4-10 week timeframe for things to fully heal in there. Without further details, hard to elaborate.
For Sunday, he could sit out which I think is the smart move or he could once again be active but play only in the case of emergency. I envision him sitting this one out.
Update: Lewis has since been placed on IR.
LB Matt Milano (Left pectoral)
Milano was limited all week in a red practice jersey which seemed to worry some members of Bills Mafia. He is designated as questionable but I fully expect him to play Sunday. His pectoral tear is still healing up and will not likely be fully healed until after the bye. He only played in 33% of the snaps on obvious passing downs illustrating his restrictions at the moment. I had thought that could be a possibility in my Buffalo Rumblings article.
He was likely limited due to the team not wanting to have him go through full practices and possibly re-injure the area. He doesn’t need to practice tackling, he needs to work in the game plan. I expect his snap count to increase this week but still rotate with LB AJ Klein to prevent further re-injury.
QB Josh Allen (Left shoulder)
I continue to highlight Allen’s presence on the injury report because he clearly did something to the shoulder as evident with the shoulder brace. He’s going to continue playing through it but we’ve seen him have less scrambles and more designed runs or stay in the pocket. I still believe he injured the labrum or the rotator cuff. He continues to practice and play, but there is concern that he re-injures it at some point with a hard hit.
WR John Brown (Left knee)
Brown continues to battle through numerous injuries from earlier this season, but finally appears back on track to play Sunday. Three full days of practice indicates that he will play and with the Patriots potentially without CB Stephon Gilmore, Brown may have himself a day against a weakened secondary. He is still healing from the numerous injuries, but appears healthy enough to play.
WR Isaiah McKenzie (Ankle)
McKenzie only played in 20% of the offensive plays from Sunday but still managed to walk away with an ankle injury. As you see a theme here, there are no specifics on the exact injury as to what he’s dealing with. He did not have a game day designation meaning he will play and hopefully be effective.
Other injury news:
CB Levi Wallace (Left ankle)
Wallace is eligible to return from IR following his ankle injury in the Raiders game. He has missed the last 3 games and is in his practice window where he does not count against the roster.
Looking at the video, he’s moving around fairly well but still having some trouble going to his left and pushing off that side. As he is in the practice window, the team is not obligated to give an injury report or participation designation to him.
If this were a playoff game, I say he can play. While this is an important game, the Patriots are beat up themselves which means the Bills can afford to let Wallace rehab another week before returning to the field.
Update: Wallace has been activated from IR.
G Jon Feliciano (Right pectoral tear)
Feliciano is making his long awaited debut for the 2020 season after tearing his right pectoral muscle while weightlifting shortly after training camp started. I had speculated that he would return after Week 8, he returns before. He is wearing a shoulder harness as I suspected he would and I do not believe he plays the entire game.
I would expect that he rotates in on the line and gets his feet wet as he works back into game shape. He had told reporters that he wanted to come back sooner but they stopped him to essentially protect him from himself. The team made the right move in this case.
If I were the training staff, I would work him in over the next 3 games and then let him play the full games following the bye. He will be 4 months out at that point and while he can still continue to heal, he will be at a much lower chance to re-tear the area.
The Bills have activated TE Lee Smith off the COVID/Reserve list. The team elevated LB Andre Smith to the active roster, cut and re-signed LB Deon Lacey to the practice squad. The team is also in the process of signing former Jets and Chiefs LB Darron Lee to the practice squad.
QB Jake Fromm
CB Cam Lewis* IR
DT Vernon Butler
S Micah Hyde
RB TJ Yeldon
CB Josh Norman
G Cody Ford
While the Bills continue to battle through the numerous injuries, the Patriots are dealing with their own. On top of all the COVID opt outs, they will also be without WR N’Keal Harry and WR Julian Edelman due to a concussion and knee injuries respectively. There is a possibility their top CB Stephon Gilmore missing the game due to a knee injury. DT Carl Davis has also been ruled out with a concussion.
Looking at the questionables besides Gilmore, there are a lot of significant names on that list. They are one team that is quite possibly as beat up as the Bills are.
Despite all the injuries on both teams, the Patriots still have Bill Belichick. He has been at this a very long time and will adapt his game plan to whatever he has available and may very well still be competitive. I will not count out the Patriots until the clock strikes 0:00 in the 4th quarter with the Bills having more points than the Patriots.
I am expecting the Bills to win this game because I believe they are the better team, but if the Bills struggle early like they did the past few games, this could spell trouble in securing the AFC East crown. With the weather expected to be poor, wet and windy conditions may lend itself to reducing injuries. The Bills need to get through this game with minimal injuries and get to the bye in order to make a deep postseason run.
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