Welcome back to your regularly scheduled programming Bills fans! Reflecting back on this latest bye week, they used to be a respite not only for the players but for the fans as the Bills slogged through another uneventful season. But with a highly talented team and each game means so much now, especially in a crowded AFC playoff picture, the bye week appears to never go fast enough.
Coming off the loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Buffalo Bills are 4-2, looking forward to hosting a matchup against the hapless 1-6 Miami Dolphins. On top of being the more talented team, the Bills are also far healthier with 3 players dealing with injury compared to 12 players for the Dolphins along with an additional 7 on injured reserve.
Normally, injuries can sway the outcome of a game with the healthier team usually winning. However, over the past two weeks, that theory has been put to the test with the Bills losing to the Titans in Week 6 and the Denver Broncos inexplicably losing to the Cleveland Browns in Week 7. The Dolphins will be coming out swinging, playing for respect and pride as they look to break their six-game losing streak to dig out of the AFC East basement.
Below are all the Bills and Dolphins injuries heading into Week 8.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURIES
TE Dawson Knox (Right-hand metacarpal fracture)
Knox has already been ruled out against the Dolphins in Week 8 following surgery to repair two broken metacarpal bones in his hand. This injury was sustained in Week 6 after falling down late in the 3rd quarter. He managed to stay in the rest of the series before shot-putting a successful two-point conversion to Josh Allen in the endzone.
Knox was observed at practice with just a bandage on the dorsum of his right hand, participating in conditioning and catching balls as observed below.
Based on the location of the bandage, it’s likely that he suffered fractures to his 3rd and 4th metacarpal bones which are the middle and ring finger area. Knox could have possibly played in this upcoming game, but he would have had to have a brace or other protection on the hand and would have not been a factor in the passing game, at times even limited in blocking schemes.
Right now, I’m projecting him to return to play against the Jaguars in Week 9, though the timeline given suggests that he may not return until the Jets game in Week 10. The team has the luxury of waiting until he is as close to full health which affects the timeline.
If you want to read more on the injury, I detailed everything over at Buffalo Rumblings in Monday’s article.
OT Spencer Brown (Back)
Brown missed practice this week with a back injury, though it wasn’t initially clear when he suffered the injury as he played in every offensive snap against Tennessee in Week 6. Sean McDermott later clarified that Brown suffered the injury while training early in the week and the team is holding out hope that he plays.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have a history of back issues according to his publicly reported injuries. Based on the wording and timing, this suggests that he is dealing with a strain in the lumbar musculature. It’s possible this could be higher up into the mid-back, but from a physical therapy perspective, a large majority of patients who I have treated over the years present with low back pain. It’s a very common area to suffer an injury and considering the demands of the position, it’s no surprise that he is dealing with this injury along with his height and weight.
RochesterFirst’s Thad Brown did some digging and found that all previous players designated doubtful during Sean McDermott’s tenure have not played. I would expect that trend to continue this weekend. Previous research indicates that roughly 5 percent of players deemed doubtful actually suit up and play.
This is a rookie that is playing well so far and there is no need to suffer further injury to the area if they can avoid it.
DT Justin Zimmer (foot)
Zimmer appeared on the injury report following practice Wednesday with a foot injury that suggests that he suffered the injury during practice. He was able to practice in a limited fashion Thursday and full on Friday, deeming him questionable for the game. It’s important to note he doesn’t have any history of foot issues and overall injuries for that matter.
It’s possible he could be a game-time decision, but considering how he has fought to stick on an NFL roster, it would likely take a serious injury to keep him out of any football game.
MIAMI DOLPHINS INJURIES
RB Malcolm Brown (Quadricep)/CB Jason McCourty (foot)
Both were placed on injured reserve following Sunday’s loss to the Falcons. Details of their injuries are not available but it’s likely that Brown’s injury is a quadricep strain and McCourty’s is unknown from what is publicly reported. McCourty’s injury may be severe enough that it might require surgery. Both will be eligible to return in Week 11 at the earliest.
WR Will Fuller (Finger)
Fuller is still on IR following a broken finger sustained in the loss to the Colts in Week 4. He is eligible to come back to the active roster but is not expected to according to reports.
LB Jerome Baker (Left Knee)
Baker suffered a left knee injury in the first quarter of Sunday’s Week 7 matchup that initially left him questionable to return. He did not return to the game and received a precautionary MRI that ruled out a serious injury. Looking at the film, he suffered the injury with 1:31 left in the first quarter and it’s important to note that he was not directly involved in the play.
The Falcons’ Cordelle Patterson went up the middle and he was tackled by Byron Jones and Eric Rowe with Baker off to the side of the tackle. He appeared to step awkwardly and pivot on the left knee before hopping up on the right side, eventually requiring assistance from the training staff. He was able to walk off under his own power to the sidelines. Based on the video, it could suggest that it was a meniscus tear with the MRI looking at the severity and location.
He would have had to have some symptoms for this to warrant an MRI which thankfully came back without terrible news. Considering he has been limited all week after avoiding a potentially serious knee injury, I’m not certain that he plays. It’s difficult to go from the possibility of a major injury to playing the next week.
WR DeVante Parker (Shoulder/Hamstring)
Parker continues to battle through injuries dealing with another hamstring injury. This injury has popped up here and there the past two years and he continues to work through the injury. At times this season, it has been described as soreness.
He is also dealing with a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the last 3 games. The details of this injury are not available, but Parker has stopped short of saying he will play Sunday. Reports indicate that he will be available. If he’s not out there, the Bills secondary will only have an easier job.
OL Greg Mancz (Groin)
Mancz is currently filling in at center for Michael Deiter who is on IR due to a foot injury. It’s not certain that Mancz will play; playing center will at least allow him to stay in a small area, ideally keeping his block in front of him. This will at least prevent him from lateral movements seen more in the tackle position, though he could still get moved around as the pocket breaks down.
If he doesn’t play, then Austin Reiter or Cameron Tom could see additional snaps.
CB Noah Igbinoghnene (Knee/Ankle)
The young cornerback continues to struggle to get on the field not from just a performance standpoint, but now from injuries. He has only appeared in two games this season, mostly due to being inactive. He did play in Week 3 and 6 but was questionable with a knee injury that forced him out of Week 7.
If he doesn’t play, it appears that his talent and skill set are more of an issue than the injury based on his usage so far this year.
CB Xavien Howard (Shoulder/Groin)
Howard has been working through shoulder and groin injuries over the past two weeks, missing the Jaguars game, but suiting up for the Falcons. Like most on this list, details are scarce regarding the specifics of the injuries, but a cornerback with a groin injury that has to rely on quick movements and has to be reactionary typically doesn’t go well.
The shoulder injury will also likely limit his ability to tackle at times and high point the ball for an interception if he’s in position. He has shown the ability to play the entire game based on his snap counts. He is a player that could be exploited in the second half if he begins to show signs of wear.
S Brandon Jones (Ankle)
Jones continues to address an ankle injury that has had him appear on the injury report the past two weeks. He was limited all week but does not carry a game designation heading into Sunday. He has not missed any games and still plays a majority of the snaps at safety.
CB Byron Jones (Achilles/Groin)
Byron Jones has been dealing with soft tissue injuries all season with the latest being Achilles and groin injuries. He dealt with these injuries around the same time last year and at times clearly restricted his ability to perform. Despite the injuries, he continues to play in nearly every snap.
The Achilles appears to be a tendinitis issue based on the length of time he has dealt with it. He will have difficulty getting a strong first step for sprinting and lack some power in jumping up for the ball. His groin injury will also prevent him from reacting as quickly and staying with his assignment.
These injuries have been persisting since late September/early October. Looking at all the cornerbacks injured on this list, the Buffalo offense can really focus on wearing these players down by keeping them on the move.
LB Jaelan Phillips (Ankle)
Phillips was questionable heading into Week 7 and ultimately played, but still pops back up on the injury report this week. He was able to practice in full several times this week indicating it may be a minor issue. The specifics of the injury are not available, but Phillips does have a history of ankle injuries dating back to his time at UCLA that cost him a chunk of his freshman year.
It’s important to note that these were suffered over 4 years ago, but he has played through these injuries in the past. Despite being drafted higher than his former Hurricanes teammate Greg Rousseau, he has not shown why he was worth the pick over Rousseau so far.
LB Elandon Roberts (Shoulder)
This is Roberts’ first week on the injury report with a shoulder injury, suggesting that he suffered it in the loss to the Falcons. He practiced in full Thursday and Friday this week, indicating this may be a minor issue.
DT Zack Sieler (Rib)
He shows up on the injury report with a rib injury that has not limited him in practice but could be managed with some protection and injections to manage the discomfort. He has not missed any games this season.
QB Jacoby Brissett (Hamstring)
Brissett continues to work through a hamstring injury suffered while starting in place of Tua and has been practicing in full this week, indicating that his time on the injury report may be coming to an end.
QB Tua Tagovailoa (Ribs)
Tua is still in the healing process for his multiple rib fractures suffered in Week 2 at the expense of the Bills AJ Epenesa. Since returning, he has guided the Dolphins to close losses but has performed well from a statistical perspective, indicating that he is closer to 100 percent. He is the difference-maker in this game and I expect the Dolphins to be more competitive in this contest than in Week 2.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
TE Dawson Knox
OT Spencer Brown
DT Vernon Butler
RB Matt Breida
DL Boogie Basham
DE Efe Obada
Practice Squad elevation: TE Kahale Warring
MIAMI DOLPHINS PROJECTED INACTIVES
CB Noah Igbinoghnene
LB Jerome Baker
OT Greg Little
TE Hunter Long
DT John Jenkins
Update: RB Patrick Laird was signed to the active roster, WR Preston Williams and S Sheldon Redwine did not travel with the team, ruling them out for Sunday.
The Bills are playing at home against a very banged-up, but desperate Dolphins team. While this should be a win for Buffalo to move to 5-2, Miami still has talent and is playing for pride.
Buffalo has to go into this game focusing on executing their game plan and scoring early to prevent starters and other key contributors from getting hurt. While these next 3 games are an opportunity for starters to have an early day once the game is in hand, these are instances where losing a key contributor for a long stretch would not be ideal.
As with any game, the Bills have to go in, do their job, and get out while avoiding injury.
Top Photo Credit: BillsWire-USA Today