Buffalo Bills Injury Review Week 17- Atlanta Falcons

Playoff ticket punched! 

The Buffalo Bills secured their fourth playoff appearance in the past five seasons with a 29-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons, ending their own playoff hopes. This level of consistency within the franchise following 17 years of playoff-less football is remarkable and incredibly satisfying. 

To know that the Buffalo Bills, once the gold standard for NFL ineptitude, is now one of the model franchises with regards to team building and quarterback development.

This is a team that is not without its flaws, but the flaws that Bills fans once normalized and justified are in the rearview mirror. Playoff football and Super Bowl aspirations are the new normal in Western New York, but the team still has work to do in the regular season. 

The Bills must win next week against the New York Jets to win the AFC East and secure a home playoff game, but this team has shown they understand what it takes to get ready each and every week.

Fortunately, the Bills did not suffer many injuries in the win over the Falcons with every injury detailed below.

In-game injuries

OT Spencer Brown (Right shoulder)

Brown suffered a right shoulder injury late in the second quarter with 3:25 left on the first Josh Allen interception in the red zone. As Allen rolled out to the right, Brown continued to pick up blocks, taking on a Falcons defender near the sideline. Brown took on the block and appeared to lead with his right shoulder, knocking down the defender.

The initial thoughts were that he suffered a stinger which would be supported by the brief attention by the trainers and his quick return to the game. He does not have any prior history of known stingers which means hopefully this is a one-off thing. 

This is an injury to note but unless he continues to have issues, I don’t see this being a long-term concern. It’s also worth noting that he did not miss any plays as a result of the injury, playing in all 76 offensive snaps.

WR Stefon Diggs (Head injury)

Diggs briefly left the game following a hard hit to the right side of his head late in the 4th quarter with 4:04 left. He appeared slightly disoriented which led to him going to the sidelines and into the blue medical tent for a brief moment. 

Either the team saw something that warranted a further assessment or the independent athletic trainers above watching for injuries called down to notify of the hit. Diggs was able to return shortly after his assessment indicating that he did not suffer a concussion. It’s important that these protocols are in place to protect the players both short and long term.

Diggs could still appear on the injury report with a neck injury, but even as he noted last week, he heals like Wolverine, which means that he doesn’t have things that will linger.

OL Ryan Bates (Right knee)

Bates went down shortly after Diggs left the game with a right knee injury of his own. The details of the injury are in the tweet below, but it appears as though Bates had his right leg caught in the pile and got it hit at the end of the play.

There weren’t any designations from the team and Bates did not return to the game, but the remaining plays were all kneel-downs which did not require him to be out there. 

During Monday’s press conference, head coach Sean McDermott noted that Bates was day-to-day with a knee injury.

Looking back at the video again, it’s difficult to note what he injured. Day-to-day rules out big injuries such as an ACL, meniscus, patellar tendon, etc. With how his leg was positioned, the knee is vulnerable but rather stable in my opinion once he’s on the pile. 

His hip is turned out in external rotation, his knee flexed, or bent, and his ankle is trapped under the pile but stabilized. The Falcons LB Steven Means drives Reggie Gilliam backward into the pile and Means drives into Bates’ leg, hitting it at the very end. 

I was initially focused on how Means hits Bates at the very end and concerned for the ankle, but knowing this is a knee, you have to go back to how Bates ended on top of the pile. He gets caught from behind and rotates down, stressing the inner portion of the knee, suggesting an MCL injury, though this appears to be rather mild.

Credit: Creekside Chiro

Day-to-day has historically suggested that a player misses a game and the team has traditionally stuck to that. There have and always will be exceptions, most notably Josh Allen with his foot injury against Tampa Bay.

It stands to reason that Bates could play Sunday against the Jets. It may come down to whether the team wants to give him a week off considering the opponent and depth they have available.

Can the team get by with Cody Ford or Jon Feliciano for a game? I believe so.

But to remove Bates when he has been playing well could disrupt chemistry. His practice participation will determine everything this week. I suspect he plays if he gets at least a limited practice Thursday as McDermott has been making Wednesday practices a walk-through. 

Other observations

WR Emmanuel Sanders (Right knee)

Sanders is still day-to-day with a right knee injury originally sustained late in the first half of the Buccaneers game that saw him exit early. He missed the Panthers game and then played in 82 percent of snaps against the Patriots before missing Thursday and Friday’s practice last week. 

Sean McDermott stated he didn’t know if Sanders had a setback or if he’s fighting through the injury. Based on the wording and what we know now, a setback is very reasonable to consider. I believe he suffered a setback sometime in practice, but it still isn’t clear what type of injury he is dealing with. 

The film suggests a possible quadriceps strain, but I’m torn on committing to that as he was moving really well prior to the Patriots game for someone dealing with a muscle strain. I would have expected compensations, limitations, something to suggest how the injury was affecting him.

We simply do not have all the information at this point in time. Practice reports this week will give us a better idea of whether he will attempt to play on Sunday. I don’t see the benefit of playing when he can get an extra week off to get ready for the playoffs.

The Bills were initially favored -17 against the New York Jets next week and have a chance to close out the season on a four-game winning streak heading into the playoffs. I’m not certain the Bills outright rest starters next week because the game still has meaning, but I would hope that if the game is anything like the first meeting, that the Bills bring in the backups to close out the AFC East title. 

The team needs to be healthy heading into the playoffs because last year, that was their shortcoming in the AFC Championship game. They were able to weather some losses, but injuries to Diggs, Beasley, and Davis proved to be costly when it mattered most. They have had several notable losses this year, but the hope is that the team was able to adjust and adapt instead of being exposed and losing a winnable game where every game means the difference between hoisting a trophy and going home.

Top Photo Credit: Democrat and Chronicle