After a rousing win over the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills seemed primed to take that next step towards establishing their dominance against a tough slate of opponents heading into December.
However, this week has been turned sideways with COVID designations, several injuries, and signings to the team and practice squad to keep the pieces of the puzzle together. The Bills will attempt to put together a game plan that involves shuffling their offensive line and stopping an Indianapolis Colts team that is looking to challenge for not only the AFC South but supplant themselves as a serious AFC contender after a slow start.
Below are the injuries for both the Bills and Colts along with projected inactives and predictions.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURIES
DT Star Lotulelei
Lotulelei went on the COVID Reserve list hours before Sunday’s game against the Jets and has yet to come off as of publication. He was on the reserve list in August due to close contact from a member of the staff which meant he was not fully vaccinated at the time.
Based on Harrison Phillips’s statements above on Friday, he alludes to the fact that Star is dealing with symptoms which means he will be out for the Colts game.
OT Spencer Brown
Brown was placed on the COVID Reserve list Thursday, ruling him out for Sunday’s game against the Colts. Based on his vaccination status which is not clear at this time, there is a distinct possibility that he misses the Week 13 contest against the Saints as well. This will have to play out and when he returns will shed light on his status and availability.
LB Tremaine Edmunds (Hamstring)
Edmunds is a true questionable status. There are very few tells as to whether he will play Sunday. Based on his practice participation availability, he looks to need another week. His practice desigations this week are exactly the same as Matt Milano’s prior to the Kansas City Chiefs game in which he ultimately did not play. However, because that happened then does not mean that Edmunds will follow the same path. But it still isn’t clear how severe the injury originally was because it’s not identifiable on film from the Jaguars game.
If this was a regular week, I believe Edmunds would attempt to suit up. But since there is a quick turnaround against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving, that complicates things.
Do you play Edmunds against an AFC opponent knowing that if he re-injures the hamstring, you have 15 days to get him right for Week 14 against the New England Patriots?
Or do you sit him and play him against the Saints and still have the benefit of the extra rest?
The team clearly knows what they intend to do, we’re just not in the room for that decision.
The weather will be rainy closer to kickoff. A warm-up session and seeing how the weather is may determine his availability.
Based on all the info, especially the weather, I’m not certain he plays. Glad to be wrong if he does.
RB Taiwan Jones (Illness)
Jones missed Thursday’s practice with an illness and did not have a game designation indicating that he will be ready to play Sunday.
LB Matt Milano (Shoulder)
Milano spent all week as a limited designation wearing a red non-contact jersey due to a shoulder injury sustained at some point in the win over the Jets. It’s not clear when he injured the shoulder, but he did receive a hard hit to his left shoulder courtesy of TE Ryan Griffin with 12:20 left in the 4th quarter.
There were also several instances where he tackled the offensive player, landing on the left shoulder, but bouncing right back up. He does not have a game designation, but I expect to see some sort of kinesio tape on the affected shoulder and maybe a slight reluctance to lead with that side. Until we get more information Sunday, it’s hard to speculate the exact injury.
WR Cole Beasley (Left Ribs)
Beasley continues to be limited in practice as he works through the rib injuries originally suffered in Week 8. The team continues to try to get him through games and realizes that despite the injury, he is still more talented than other options on the roster.
At this point, he either have some fractures in the area or cartilage damage that he is working through. They could still be bruised, but it isn’t known what he has to go through just to get ready for Sunday’s.
I expect his usage to be limited once again, though I’d expect that his snap count is higher than 9 from last week. The team did well utilizing Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie last week and we could possibly see this again.
Other notable items
The Bills signed OT Bobby Hart to the 53-man roster Friday.
WR Jake Kumerow has been activated back to the 53-man roster from the COVID Reserve list Thursday.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS INJURIES
LB Darius Leonard (Left Ankle/Hand)
Leonard appears to be the Energizer bunny, he keeps going and going and going despite this ankle injury. To clarify, this is his left ankle that he is dealing with and it has been a chronic issue since he had surgery on it back in early June. At the time, it was reported that it was a minor procedure, “nothing serious”, but it’s clear that this continues to bother him.
This article indicates how much trouble the ankle has given Leonard including his struggle running flat-out or planting and cutting, forcing him to adapt his game to compensate. He is still playing at a high level despite all the issues, but this is something that the Bills could take advantage of if they can get him out of position.
He is dealing with some type of instability as evident by the ankle heavily taped up and having the difficulty in cutting and sprinting. He has noted that it’s not as bad as he thought, but this is due to the chronic nature of the injury at this point. If he exits due to the ankle at any point in the game, I would expect him to come back.
Despite his All-Pro status, Leonard is a ripe opportunity to take advantage in the second half or on an extended drive if they can force him out of position. He will still make a play, but he’s a step slower. There isn’t much on the hand injury he’s dealing with, but if he has trouble getting to the tackle and can’t wrap them up as effectively, then this can only help the Bills.
CB TJ Carrie (Knee)
Carrie has been battling with a knee injury all year originally sustained in the Week 2 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. He played the first several weeks of the season before going onto injured reserve with the injury following the Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. He was activated on November 13th and returned to play against the Jacksonville Jaguars playing in 53 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
He did not practice Wednesday but was full the rest of the week indicating the knee still isn’t totally healed, but that it is an injury the team continues to manage. It’s not clear which side the knee injury is on, but something that bears watching if he continues to struggle with it or if he has another setback.
T Eric Fisher (Back)
There isn’t a lot reported regarding the back injury for Fisher. This is a new injury from Week 10 for which he did not practice Wednesday but was able to practice in full for the remainder of the week indicating this is manageable.
This back injury certainly pales in comparison to what Fisher has had to go through to return to play this season. If you recall, Fisher tore his left Achilles in the AFC Championship game against the Bills in late January when he played with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was not re-signed by the Chiefs and hit free agency, landing with the Colts. Fisher worked his tail off to return in 8 months from a procedure that typically takes 9-to-12 months to recover from for normal people, much less play NFL football.
He has performed well, playing in every offensive snap since Week 3, and has been a consistent force along the Colts line. He may be a step slower than he once was, but it appears he is still performing at a high level which will make targeting him as an offensive liability more difficult.
DE Dayo Odeyingbo (Ankle)
Odeyingbo, a rookie, is still working his way back from an Achilles injury suffered while training for the Senior Bowl in January. He was activated from the NFI list for Week 8 and has appeared in 3 games since then, not playing more than 25 percent of the snaps. It’s not clear that the ankle designation is the same side or issue as the Achilles, but there is a distinct possibility.
He is in a similar position as fellow teammate Eric Fisher as they both tore their Achilles around the same time but came back at different points in the season. The Bills likely won’t see too much of Odeyingbo this game due to the snap counts, but he may be in on certain defensive packages.
T Braden Smith (Right Elbow)
Smith continues to work through an elbow injury sustained in Week 9 that was originally designated a triceps injury. It was later clarified as an elbow injury, but the triceps connects at the elbow which makes the designation fairly similar. It’s important to note that he also suffered a foot injury earlier this year that kept him out until Week 8.
I’m not an expert at pass rush moves, but whoever lines up opposite him should really focus on trying to get him moving his feet outside and then rush inside, forcing him to reach across his body with his right arm, weakening the leverage he has with the already injured elbow. He still has his left arm to block, but his feet might still be slower to respond, making this an opportunity to apply pressure to the backfield and disrupt the offensive gameplan.
CB Xavier Rhodes (Calf)
Rhodes originally suffered a calf injury in Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers and has been battling the injury since then, missing last week. He was limited all week but on track to play, but still clearly not fully healthy.
I expect that he will also lack explosiveness as the game progresses which could be an opportunity to pick and choose when to take advantage if the team can get him into open space or out of position as he may have trouble sticking with his assignment.
Rhodes may have to adjust his positioning and compensate as a result of the injury. If a receiver can get past him, dial-up a pass because he is an chance to get burned as he will have a tough time catching up. This isn’t absolute, but there could be timely opportunities.
G Quenton Nelson (Right Ankle)
Nelson continues to work through the high-ankle sprain that forced him to injured reserve earlier this season. He was also dealing with a toe injury last week but this designation doesn’t appear on the injury report this week. High-ankle sprains typically don’t heal fully in season, it’s a matter of rehabbing and trying to prevent re-injury as much as possible.
I would say he could be a weak link, but he’s a 3-time All-Pro guard which makes an injured Nelson a still far better option than anything the Colts could replace him with.
LB EJ Speed (Knee)
Speed suffered a hyperextended knee back in training camp that he was expected to miss minimal time. He was able to practice in full this week and hasn’t missed any regular-season games. He was also named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week last week indicating this isn’t an issue.
DT DeForest Buckner (Abdomen/Throat/Back)
Buckner has been working through a back injury since last week when it locked up on him during the Thursday practice prior to Week 10. He did not practice this Wednesday but participated in full the remainder of the week indicating that this is on the mend. He is also dealing with throat and abdomen areas which I typically see are the results of direct blows to the area.
He is a force up the middle and is a constant presence, playing in at least 70 percent of snaps in every game this season. Despite all the injuries, I don’t expect that to change.
CB Anthony Chesley (Illness)
Chesley missed Thursday’s practice with an illness and does not have a game designation heading into Sunday’s game.
TE Jack Doyle (Knee)
Doyle is working through what appears to be a minor knee injury, practicing in full Wednesday, but limited Thursday. There’s not much available to suggest this is a concern moving forward.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
OT Bobby Hart
WR Jake Kumerow
CB Cam Lewis
LB Tremaine Edmunds
DT Brandin Bryant
Practice Squad COVID Call-up: DT Brandin Bryant
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS PROJECTED INACTIVES
WR Mike Strachan
RB Marlon Mack
DE Ben Banogu
T Julién Davenport
G/T Will Fries
The Bills are still favored (-7) according to the oddsmakers but this could be a closer game due to the loss of Brown on the offensive side and Lotulelei on the defensive side.
It was a close game last time these two teams met and I expect it to be a similar outcome. The Colts have the advantage from a health perspective but it will still come down to who is on that field Sunday playing the actual game.
I expect a very competitive game and ideally, both teams come out with minimal injuries. The Bills can’t afford any more losses on a short week and the Colts appear to finally be getting healthier.
Top Photo Credit: Gary McCollough/AP