Well, this is a fantastic turn of events! The New England Patriots, 6-8 and eliminated from the playoffs. The Bills, 11-3, winner of the AFC East and a playoff spot locked up. This is a welcome change from the last 20 years and is a chance to kick the Patriots while they’re down on national TV.
While a game against the Patriots is never a guaranteed win, the Bills have shown that they can play with and beat anyone in the NFL. On top of it, the Bills are incredibly healthy compared to the Patriots who listed roughly 40% of their active roster on the injury report. Below is the Bills injury concerns heading into Monday night and a rundown of all the Patriots’ injuries.
TE Reggie Gilliam (Knee/hamstring)
Gilliam is interesting because he was designated as probable with a knee injury during the game but eventually returned. It appeared he injured his left knee when he got hit from behind on kickoff with 6:28 left in the 2nd quarter but later returned. He shows up on the injury report with the knee and hamstring and hasn’t practiced all week. His last appearance in the game was with 8:02 left in the 4th quarter when he lined up as a fullback on a run play; there wasn’t a clear mechanism of injury.
He has since been ruled out for Monday’s game but it’s possible that he aggravated his hamstring injury from Week 13 at some point in the game. Since the playoffs are locked up and he has become a core special teamer, he may finally be giving it the rest it deserves. As Gilliam is designated a tight end and plays special team, there could be a one for one swap for Tyler Kroft considering Kroft has played a decent amount of special teams so far this year.
S Jaquan Johnson (Right ankle)
Seeing Johnson practice after two full weeks off is promising after he had his right ankle taken out late in the Steelers game. I had thought he suffered a high ankle by the way he got hit from the outside. The fact that he practiced in a limited fashion this week is promising.
Looking back at the others who have had similar practice designations through the week, the team has been all over the place. We have seen players not practice all week but play Sunday in the case of Andre Roberts, players practice in full but are ruled out on game day such as Vernon Butler, and everything in between. Those that have followed exactly what Johnson did indicates that he will play. He is a vital special teams player; it would be expected that he plays considering Gilliam is out.
T Ty Nsekhe (Groin)
I don’t know what to make of Nsekhe. This was his first extended time playing this year with 30 snaps on offense following mostly special teams snaps during the year. Reviewing the film, there wasn’t anything obvious as to how he would have injured his groin.
Nsekhe did leave practice briefly on Wednesday but later returned but has been DNP all this week except Friday when he was limited. Things certainly aren’t trending towards him playing which is concerning due to the fact that he replaced Daryl Williams last Saturday. Thankfully, the team does not have a designation for Williams which allows them to find a different depth option.
QB Josh Allen (Right knee/ankle)
I’m not sure which joint is still bothering him to be on this injury report, my guess is his ankle. He didn’t wear a brace on the right leg and was running all over without hesitation. This may be more of a formality but this injury isn’t a factor from what we can see with his mobility.
WR Stefon Diggs (Left foot)
Diggs foot injury was concerning at first until it was reported that it wasn’t overly worrisome. I had thought that he might be limited this week, but fortunately he has practiced in full every day. He may still be dealing with some pain but his foot getting stepped on won’t affect his performance Monday night.
DE AJ Epenesa (Not injury)
Epenesa is on this injury report due to being evaluated for a head injury late in the game Saturday. He was ruled to not have a concussion but apparently since that designation was not made before the end of the game, this designation indicates that there was a potential injury that was cleared. Otherwise, no issues for Monday.
WR Andre Roberts (Low back)
Roberts has been limited all week with the exception of Friday in which he practiced in full. Considering he is such a vital part of special teams, it was expected that he did suit up since it isn’t ideal that Micah Hyde returns punts. It’s great Hyde is available but to have a Pro Bowl-caliber return man that specializes in trying to flip the field is better. The hope is that he was dealing with general pain or spasms that have since calmed down.
CB Tre’Davious White (Neck)
White suffered a stinger in the game on Saturday, went out briefly and then came back to finish the game. He has suffered stingers before and for several weeks last season, he dealt with a neck injury, though it did not affect his availability at the time.
He did practice in full this week indicating this isn’t a big issue; it is possible that he is dealing with some general soreness in the neck with certain movements or it is possible that he is still dealing with some occasional numbness/tingling in the neck/arm that isn’t affecting his abilities. If that’s the case, I’d expect him to continue getting treatment to manage his complaints and be ready for Monday.
T Daryl Williams (Groin)
Williams was the big concern to miss Monday’s game due to exiting shortly after halftime during the Broncos game. The research has shown that he could be out 8-20 days which initially after the injury, seemed like he wasn’t going to play against the Patriots. However, he has practiced all week with a limited designation which indicates that the groin strain isn’t as severe as initially thought.
QB Jake Fromm
RB TJ Yeldon
T Ty Nsekhe
TE Reggie Gilliam
DE Trent Murphy*
*If John Brown is activated.
WR John Brown (Right high ankle sprain)
I also expect that John Brown will be recalled from IR back to the active roster and get some playing time to get ready for the postseason. The team has until 4 pm on Monday to make this designation. This squad is quite healthy in the big picture, though most of these guys are banged up and dealing with smaller injuries to varying degrees.
The Patriots will be without Stephon Gilmore and likely Julian Edelman, both of whom didn’t play in Week 8 when the Bills last played them. Besides that, 20 players were listed on the injury report with limited participation by all and carrying a questionable designation.
If you want gamesmanship, this is it right here folks. I can say with 100% certainty that 13 of the 20 players listed will play. As for who won’t, that’s anyone’s guess besides Bill Belichick. A small part of me wants to speculate who plays and who doesn’t, but that exercise would be fruitless. If this had serious playoff implications or was a playoff matchup, I’d dig into this, but I’m not going to let Bill Belichick waste any more of my time. He’s already given nearly 20 years of misery to this fan base.
I do expect the Bills to go 4-0 in December to sweep the Patriots for the first time since 1999. If they do, this will be their highest win total since 1993 and will be the 6th time that they have achieved 12 wins or better in franchise history. I want to continue to see the Bills maximize their offensive firepower as they inch closer to the playoffs to win their first playoff game since 1995 and complete a deep playoff run. Enjoy the moment, Go Bills!
Top Photo Credit: Buffalo Rumblings