The Buffalo Bills have the chance to repeat as AFC East champions Sunday against the New York Jets.
It’s been a long time since the Buffalo Bills last won back-to-back AFC East titles. I mean, a really long time.
You have to go back to 1988-1991 when the Bills won four straight titles before the Miami Dolphins broke the streak in 1992. During that 1988-1991 time frame, the Bills won four division titles resulting in three AFC Championship appearances and two Super Bowl appearances.
While the game and players are vastly different from those teams of yesteryear, the accomplishments still garner the same level of respect. With a win Sunday, the Bills will lock up at least one home playoff game and a chance to win playoff games in back-to-back seasons since the 1992-1993 seasons.
As a fan, you always hoped that the winning would return, but it’s incredibly satisfying to see it actually come to fruition. Looking at how long it’s been since these accomplishments were last achieved, makes one appreciate this even more. While this game doesn’t have much meaning for the Jets, they still would like to ruin the party as a hated division rival.
Both teams come into the game with injuries varying in severity with the Bills dealing more with short-term ones while the Jets had another season derailed by season-ending ones. Below are the injury breakdowns for both teams along with inactives for Sunday’s matchup.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURIES
DE Efe Obada (Ankle)
Obada showed up on the injury report with an ankle following Sunday’s game having played in 11 defensive snaps and 3 special team snaps. Reviewing the film, there isn’t anything notable regarding the injury and he did not require medical attention during the game.
He did suffer an ankle injury prior to Week 4, missing the game against the Texans, but it is impossible to say whether the injuries are related. He did not practice at all this week, ruling him out for the regular-season finale. Whatever the injury is, he is out, giving him another week to recover for the Wild Card matchup.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (Right Knee)
Sanders missed Sunday’s game with a right knee injury that has been clouded in mystery since last week. He originally injured the knee against the Buccaneers, missed the Panthers game, played well against the Patriots, and didn’t practice Thursday and Friday last week.
He did not participate in the walk-through on Wednesday and did not practice Thursday or Friday. Sean McDermott stated he wasn’t sure if Sanders suffered a setback or was gutting through the injury.
At this point, it appears he suffered a setback. Whether this is a quadricep strain, tendinitis, meniscus issue, sprain, we’re not seeing the whole picture and probably won’t until the end of the season. Hopefully, the time off will allow him to prepare for the playoffs.
OL Ryan Bates (Right Knee)
Bates suffered a right knee injury late in the win over the Atlanta Falcons that, by video, appeared to be a mild MCL sprain. He was initially listed day-to-day and practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday and Thursday, but logged a full practice Friday according to the injury report.
While it is great that he does not have a gameday designation, I had said earlier in the week that it may come down to how the team feels about him rather than his true ability to play. With the snow and ice that’s expected on the field, I question how effective he can be. I’d love to see him active and just be an emergency option for the team; we have seen that play out multiple times over the years.
This is a rather meaningless game that another player can suit up for to allow Bates to rest. I can’t say for certain whether he starts Sunday, but the lack of a designation supports the MCL sprain seen on film was minor and the thoughts from earlier in the week.
DT Ed Oliver (Left Ankle)
Oliver was limited all last week and questionable heading into the Falcons game, ultimately playing. He played in the ballpark of his usual snaps and didn’t appear to be limited by much, at times even seen jumping in an attempt to break up passes.
On the broadcast, there is some type of compression sleeve or bracing under his sock on the left ankle, suggesting that is the side that is affected.
The video review did not reveal any known mechanism of the injury which makes this all the tougher to discern what he is dealing with. I don’t expect him to be limited much Sunday but I would hope the team pulls him off the field once he is no longer needed.
CB Jordan Poyer (Right Shoulder)
Poyer was not listed on the injury report, but I wanted to highlight that the shoulder injury he was dealing with last week during practice was his right shoulder. This is the same side that he injured in practice prior to Week 9.
He had black kinesio tape all over the top of the shoulder to provide stability during the game Sunday, suggesting an AC joint sprain. He may have aggravated it last week, but the injury does not appear to be affecting his play and shouldn’t barring further injury.
NEW YORK JETS INJURIES
WR Jamison Crowder (Calf)
Crowder missed the last two weeks with a calf injury originally suffered against Miami in Week 15, though it isn’t clear when he sustained the injury in that game. I also do not expect Crowder to have the necessary explosion to get off the line and run his routes smoothly.
It takes more effort to achieve the same level of production in cold weather environments and muscle tissue becomes less pliable in the cold. Both of those factors could spell a potential reinjury for Crowder if he isn’t on a pitch count or this could see him end his day early due to injury. I would not expect a career day for Crowder, especially playing in the slot in the place of Braxton Berrios.
S Ashtyn Davis (Back)
Davis appears on the injury report with a back injury following playing 49 percent of snaps in the loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday. The snap count may be a reflection of his stint on the COVID list that forced him to miss the Week 16 contest against the Jaguars.
Davis has been on the injury report due to foot and shoulder injuries earlier in the year, but there are not any reports detailing the issues with his back. As he was limited during the week, he may continue to be on a snap count due to his back and the team wanting to get looks at other players during the season finale.
DL Sheldon Rankins (Right Knee)
Rankins has been working through a knee injury since originally appearing on the injury report back in Week 12, missing the next week against the Eagles. There isn’t much information out there other than he injured the knee in the 4th quarter, but it isn’t clear when or what he did to his knee. Looking at the film from the Buccaneers game, he does have a hinged brace on the right knee, though that doesn’t clearly identify what the specific injury is at the moment.
He may continue to struggle if his block gets outside of him, forcing him to cut on the knee, stressing the already injured structures. This was observed at times during the Tampa Bay game, having difficulty quickly changing directions.
RB Michael Carter (Concussion)
Carter suffered a concussion in the first half of the Buccaneers game, ending his day early. He was unable to practice with the team Wednesday but had a full practice Thursday and Friday which was an incredibly promising progression in order to play Sunday.
I had initially thought he would not suit up due to the concussion, but each concussion is unique in their recovery and it seems Carter is ready to play Sunday.
OT Chuma Edoga (Ankle)
Edoga appears on the injury report with an ankle designation for this week. This comes after returning from injured reserve following a knee injury that forced him out of eight games before returning to play in 67 percent of snaps Sunday.
While he did not practice Wednesday, he was a full participant Thursday and Friday, suggesting the issue isn’t a big deal. He looks to be the swing tackle behind Conor McDermott and Morgan Moses, potentially seeing playing time if either goes down with an injury.
OL Greg Van Roten (Illness)
Van Roten missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness but returned to full participation Thursday and Friday.
OT George Fant (Knee)
Fant was placed on injured reserve following a knee injury in Week 17 and prior to that, suffered a knee injury in Week 15, though it’s not clear by reports if this is the same knee. He has taken the place of Mekhi Becton who has missed the majority of the season with a knee injury of his own.
In Fant’s place will be Conor McDermott getting the start to finish out the season.
S Bryce Huff (Ankle)
Huff also went to injured reserve with an ankle injury suffered in the loss to the Buccaneers Sunday. The exact nature of his ankle injury isn’t clear, but Huff has been dealing with injuries all season, going to injured reserve earlier in the year with a back injury that forced him out of 7 games, finally returning in Week 15 against Miami.
As noted above, both will have clean-up surgeries on those respective injuries to be ready for OTA’s in the spring.
WR Braxton Berrios (Quadricep)
Berrios shows up on the injury report with a quadricep injury following one of his most productive games of the season against Tampa Bay Sunday. He had 8 receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, playing in 87 percent of snaps along with 35 percent of special teams snaps. It’s safe to say that he was busy. There aren’t any reports detailing his quadriceps injury, but it’s possible the sudden increase in workload could have contributed to the injury.
It’s also possible he strained his quadriceps during the final kick return after Tampa Bay scored. While returning the ball to the right side of the field, he appeared to have trouble slowing down getting run out of bounds. It’s reasonable to consider he may have suffered the injury trying to slow down, causing a strain.
He was originally designated as doubtful heading into the game, but with many lost seasons, the team elected to place him on injured reserve rather than attempting to trot him out there not at full health. He is heading into free agency and allowing himself even an extra week’s rest can only help prevent further injury but allow him to start contemplating his future.
In addition, WR Elijah Moore is not expected to come off injured reserve following his own quadriceps injury that led to his placement on IR prior to Week 14.
Overall, the New York Jets currently have 14 players now on injured reserve, leading to a lost season of what if with many key players out with serious injuries.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
DE Efe Obada
WR Emmanuel Sanders
OT Bobby Hart
DT Vernon Butler
RB Matt Breida
TE Tommy Sweeney*
*Practice squad call ups: DT Eli Ankou
NEW YORK JETS PROJECTED INACTIVES
QB Mike White
DL Jabari Zuniga
RB La’Mical Perine
LB Javin White
CB Isaiah Dunn
*Expect the Jets to elevate two players from the practice squad, making 7 players inactive.
Get in, win the game, get out. That’s all the Bills need to do Sunday. While they are not afforded the luxury to rest a lot of starters due to the significance of the game, they can still pull starters if there is a comfortable lead to avoid injury.
With the cold weather, the biggest concern is the soft tissue strains as the muscles are less pliable with the colder temperatures. There are always concerns for the sprains and concussions as well, but the hope is that the Bills play a clean game and avoid any concerning injuries heading into the playoffs next week.
Expect the Jets to play hard for pride and to play spoiler to the division crown, but with the Bills as -16.5 favorites, this shouldn’t be much of a game. Maybe hold off on expecting the Bills to cover the spread if you want to win some money. Let’s hope for minimal to no injuries for both teams and health as the Buffalo Bills head into the NFL playoffs.
Top Photo Credit: BillsWire.USAToday.com