The Buffalo Bills head back out to Detroit for round two as they take on the Detroit Lions in their third Thanksgiving game in four years on Thursday. Short weeks are always tough on any team, especially ones coming off injuries, but the opportunity to play in front of the country and on such a football-centric holiday does mean something.
Both teams are coming into the game with several notable injuries that could have a significant impact on how each team operates. How each team responds to their key contributors being out may dictate the margin of victory or defeat, depending on which way you look at things.
Below is the full injury breakdown for each team heading into the Week 12 matchup.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURY REPORT
LB Tremaine Edmunds (Groin/heel)
Edmunds was ruled out Wednesday morning due to the groin aggravation sustained in the Week 10 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
The team noted that he would be a long shot to play and if he wasn’t even close to being ready on Sunday, it wasn’t going to look good that he would suddenly be able to play Thursday. With the week off, I’d expect he has an excellent chance to play next Thursday.
DE Greg Rousseau (Left ankle)
Rousseau is still working back from his left high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 9 against the New York Jets. He has been unable to practice and is already ruled out for Thursday.
It’s possible that he could begin practicing next week and be ready to play against the Patriots in Week 13. If he still isn’t ready, then Week 14 against the Jets is more likely.
DE AJ Epenesa (Left ankle)
Epenesa has been given the rare “doubtful” designation by the team heading into Thursday. This comes courtesy of a left ankle injury that happened at some point during the first defensive series against the Browns on Sunday.
By video, it isn’t clear how he injured the ankle. He certainly was stressing the left ankle trying to cut off it at times trying to create sacks and tackles for loss early in the game. However, he limped off to be assessed by the training staff, given a questionable tag.
He sat on the bench, unable to even attempt to stay ready or test the ankle out before being downgraded to Out in the second half. He was unable to practice all week and the team even said that it would be a stretch for him to play Thursday. We may get more information on the severity of the ankle injury next week or how the injury actually occurred. It’s possible this injury could have been lingering since Week 9 when he briefly left against the Jets, holding the same ankle. Either way, doubtful players rarely play and this shouldn’t be any different.
C Mitch Morse (Right elbow/right ankle)
Morse is officially questionable despite not practicing all week due to what appeared to be a right ankle sprain suffered on the first offensive snap of the game. Morse began working backward to block when there were several bodies that cut underneath and behind him, taking out his feet. He was able to regain his footing before falling over, but he landed on the outside portion of his foot, causing his ankle to invert and sprain the low lateral ligaments of the ankle.
Rarely do players who don’t practice during the week play later in games. The only instance that I have found of that has been in the playoffs and those are entirely different circumstances, and rightly so. While Morse could very likely play on the ankle if he needed to, it would still make anchoring effectively pushing off the right side and cutting to the right more challenging. Due to the short week, even the toughest of veterans would struggle to be effective.
If Morse is unable to go and that appears to be the case, Ryan Bates would step up, leading someone else to take the guard position. This could be Greg Van Roten or David Quessenberry coming inside to keep the line intact.
QB Josh Allen (Right elbow)
Allen officially does not have a designation due to his elbow sprain back in Week 10. While he did not wear a brace during Tuesday’s practice, he did note that there was not going to be any contact with the area which allowed him to go without it. This doesn’t mean that he won’t be playing without it anytime soon.
He is still in that area where he can re-injure that elbow with a bad hit, but if the offensive line can keep him clean once more, then the risks begin to go down. I expect a lot of the same game plan again this week, short to intermediate throws along with the run game again until the team knows he can uncork it as he needs.
CB Kaiir Elam (Left ankle)
Elam is set to make his return from his left ankle injury back in Week 9 against the Jets. He was doubtful in Week 10 and missed before being questionable and still missing Week 11. Based on the video from Week 9, it appeared as though he was suffering from a low ankle sprain or mild bone bruise based on how he was forced to slow down suddenly, appearing to tweak the ankle.
Interestingly, a new report from Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN stated that Elam originally injured the same area back in Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the second defensive play.
Looking at that video, there does not appear to be any indication that he suffered an injury at that time. Without this report and context, those dots would have never been connected. Complicating matters was the fact that he was listed as having a foot after Week 5 and an ankle after Week 9. Either way, Elam is set to make his return in Week 12.
S Damar Hamlin (Neck)
Hamlin is set to play again despite a neck designation following Sunday’s win over the Browns. He played in 100 snaps which makes determining how and when he injured the area difficult. He does not appear to have any known history with his neck, but if this lingers or comes up again, there may be breadcrumbs of information to trace back what really is going on.
CB Cam Lewis (Right forearm)
Lewis continues to show up on the injury report with a right forearm designation due to a chronic bone infection from college. I still have been unable to find out how the bone infection affects his ability to perform each and every week.
OT David Quessenberry (Left ankle)
Quessenberry was a surprise addition to the injury report following the game Sunday, seen in a walking boot by reporters. He only appeared in special teams snaps, appearing to tweak his ankle on a field goal kick with two minutes left in the game.
He was limited on Monday before practicing in full on Tuesday and Wednesday, suggesting this is a minor issue. Quessenberry may see increased playing time Thursday due to the likely absence of Mitch Morse as well, further stressing the already injured ankle.
S Jordan Poyer (Left elbow)
Poyer practiced in full all week following his return to the field after missing two games with his left elbow injury sustained against the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. He was significantly limited in engaging with his assignment on the left side, having to lead with his right shoulder and wrap up tackles with the right side. The only time he could use his left side was to finish wrapping up a tackle and even then, it still wasn’t effective.
I expect Poyer to continue to be a defensive game-changer due to his presence and ability to prevent the offense from going deep. I do expect teams to challenge him in using his left side or forcing him out of position to create extra separation for any type of advantage. Poyer is still the best option at safety despite playing with essentially one arm, but he looks as though he will be gutting this out for the remainder of the season.
DETROIT LIONS INJURY REPORT
CB Jeff Okudah (Concussion)
Okudah will miss Thursday’s contest following a collision with teammate Will Harris in the second quarter. He was diagnosed with a concussion, placing him in the league’s concussion protocol. Playing on a short week makes it virtually impossible to pass through the protocol that quickly. His loss in the secondary will hurt the Lions’ ability to control the Bills passing game.
The team has announced they plan to use Jerry Jacobs, Mike Hughes, and Amani Oruwariye at outside cornerback to fill his role.
DE Charles Harris (Groin)
Harris will miss his second consecutive game and fifth overall due to a nagging groin injury dating back to Week 4. He was unable to practice this week and due to the demands on the hips needing to bend the edge and lateral demands of the defensive line, he would not have been very effective against what is expected to be a heavy running attack by the Bills.
G Jonah Jackson (Concussion)
Jackson will miss the game with a concussion that appeared to be diagnosed on Tuesday. He was originally designated as an illness on Monday before having his designation change to a concussion Tuesday. The specifics behind the head injury are not clear as there did not appear to be any in-game designations but sometimes delayed onset of symptoms does occur.
DE Joshua Paschal (Knee)
Paschal is set to miss his second consecutive game due to a knee injury picked up back in Week 10 against the Chicago Bears. The specifics of the knee injury are not available but this injury comes after a core muscle repair in training camp cost him the first five games of the season.
G Evan Brown (Left ankle)
Brown suffered a left ankle injury last week against the New York Giants with 1:19 left in the first quarter. It isn’t clear on film what he did, but he began limping up the field as the play advanced before being whistled out of bounds. He required assessment by training staff on the field, playing in only 21 percent of the snaps.
It’s difficult to identify the exact specifics of the injury, but like many others on this list, playing on a short week makes it difficult for anyone to be fully healthy.
WR Josh Reynolds (Back)
Reynolds has been working through a back injury, missing the last three games. This injury came as the result of his back locking up in practice while trying to catch a pass earlier this month. Prior to this, he had been working through a knee injury that he felt he was overcompensating for, leading to the back injury.
He appears to be a truly questionable designation, potentially seeing how it feels closer to kickoff. Even if he does play, there is potential for the back to lock back up on him, ending his day early. This injury will be one to watch in warmups.
WR DJ Chark (Left ankle)
Chark was able to return last week to play in 16 percent of snaps after missing six games earlier in the year due to the same ankle. He spent some time on injured reserve trying to rehab the ankle, but the cause of the injury appears to be the lingering effects of his broken left ankle from last year.
I do expect his snap count to increase if Josh Reynolds is ruled out, but I would not expect any type of significant performance from Chark as he ramps back up. He may be more of a possession receiver in that he catches the ball and doesn’t try to get that YAC, focusing on shorter plays. He can’t be eliminated from the gameplay, but I don’t foresee him getting heavy usage Thursday.
C Frank Ragnow (Left foot)
Ragnow has been working through a lingering left foot injury from Week 1. This is the same foot that required season-ending plantar plate surgery according to the reference above but it’s not clear whether it’s the same injury.
Despite flare-ups and pain, Ragnow has been able to perform to his level of play. However, missing both of his starting guards may make extra work for Ragnow against Buffalo’s defensive line and could further injure his foot. That interior offensive line for Detroit may have a rough Thanksgiving.
LB Malcolm Rodriguez (Right Elbow)
Rodriguez has been working through a right elbow injury dating back to Week 9 against the Green Bay Packers. According to the article, he was hit by a fellow teammate and returned to play in a brace but missed the following week. He only saw 37 percent of snaps last week and depending on the severity of the injury, may continue to see a reduced workload.
RB D’Andre Swift (Ankle/Shoulder)
Swift has been battling injuries all season that has really limited his true abilities. He suffered an ankle injury back in Week 1 before picking up a shoulder injury in Week 3. This has opened the door for fellow back Jamaal Williams to take the lead role recently with three rushing touchdowns.
Since being drafted in 2020, Swift has battled numerous injuries and has been forced to play through them. This once again appears to be the case, limiting his effectiveness.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
CB Tre’Davious White
C Mitch Morse
DE AJ Epenesa
DE Greg Rousseau
LB Tremaine Edmunds
OL Justin Murray
TE Tommy Sweeney
Call ups: WR Tanner Gentry, DE Mike Love
DETROIT LIONS PROJECTED INACTIVES
G Evan Brown
DE Charles Harris
G Jonah Jackson
CB Jeff Okudah
WR Josh Paschal
OT Matt Nelson
DL Michael Brockers
Call-ups: LB James Houston, C Ross Pierschbacher
Banged Up Bills Best Bet
Record: 4-2 +2.00
The Bills are favored by -9.5 according to BetMGM as of Thursday morning. They will be without a pair of defensive ends, linebacker, and likely starting center, but have the depth to overcome. The Lions will be without both of their starting guards, their top cornerback, and a defensive end.
Despite the Lions being on a three-game winning streak, the Bills have something to prove and seem to turn up the intensity on national games. Kicking off the Thanksgiving slate of games with everyone watching will only make selecting your bet easier. Knowing that the Bills can move to 8-3 on national TV makes my pick 1 unit on the Bills to cover the -9.5 spread (-110) at BetMGM.
The Bills need to get healthy down this final stretch of games in December, simply put. They still control their destiny and each win stacks on each other towards getting at least a home playoff game, if not home-field advantage through the playoffs.
Taking care of games against the Lions leaves no doubt as to who they are as a team and then they can begin to focus on the divisional slate of games. The team is still 8-3 despite the constant injuries and can expect to have Pro Bowl and All-Pro talents returning within the next several weeks. Let’s watch this team gear up for a key December run.
Top Photo Credit: Timothy T Ludwig/Getty