The toughest division in the AFC kicks off Week 13 with a Thursday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills squaring off against the New England Patriots.
There is plenty at stake for both teams heading into this game. For the Bills, a chance to secure their first divisional win of the season and move back into first place. For the Patriots, a chance to secure their seventh win and inch closer to a playoff berth.
Both teams have key injuries heading into the game with the Bills appearing to be missing the biggest contributors. Get the full injury details for each team, projected inactives, and best bet heading into Thursday’s contest.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURY REPORT
DE Von Miller (Right lateral meniscus tear)
The big focus has been on how long Von Miller will be out following his right lateral meniscus tear suffered on Thanksgiving. I detailed all the possibilities here in the article linked here.
Miller has since come out and stated that he believes he can return as quickly as the New York Jets game in Week 14. This is certainly realistic, but my concern would be how the knee holds up in practice. Will the knee swell up, will he be able to cut and push off the right knee somewhat normally? He will have to line up on the left side of the line to keep that right leg in and minimize having to push off of it.
This is still a wait-and-see approach as he gets through practice this next week. I love the optimism, but setbacks can occur as well.
Update: Miller has been placed on IR, missing at minimum the next four games.
OT Dion Dawkins (Right ankle)
Dawkins was unable to practice all week due to the right ankle injury suffered late in the second quarter on Thanksgiving.
By video, it appears as though he suffered a high-ankle sprain, but with the mini-bye and positional demands, there is a chance he could be ready for the Jets game based on the logic below.
We will need to see how he performs in practice next week to get a clearer idea but his absence could be shorter than what we typically see for a high-ankle sprain. This is Dawkins’s first game missed due to injury. He did miss Week 15 last year due to COVID.
TE Quintin Morris (Illness)
This is the one designation that cannot be accounted for. He hasn’t been able to practice all week with the exception of a full practice on Wednesday, but that was a walk-through which may have not been enough time to prepare.
If Morris cannot go, then I would expect Tommy Sweeney to get his snaps.
QB Josh Allen (Right elbow)
Allen remains on the injury report with his right elbow UCL sprain suffered in the Week 9 loss to the New York Jets. He should fall off the report next week after practicing in full all week, but I do not expect this injury to magically go away. He is still working through the injury and should continue to improve as long as he doesn’t aggravate the issue such as getting hit again.
His elbow will likely not be fully better until after the season when he gets full rest and is away from throwing the football so frequently.
LB Tremaine Edmunds (Groin/heel)
Edmunds practiced in full this week after missing the last two games due to a groin injury originally suffered against the New York Jets. He was able to play the following week against the Minnesota Vikings but exited just prior to the second half due to an aggravation of the groin injury.
Looking back, playing against the Vikings despite being hurt allowed the Bills the best chance to win. Getting the following week off also allowed the Bills to get Edmunds right for the final stretch of division games in December.
DE AJ Epenesa (Left ankle)
Epenesa returns to play after missing Week 12 due to a left ankle injury sustained against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. It’s not clear what the exact injury from Week 11 is, but he appears to be ready to go for Thursday. He didn’t look great running on Sunday, but some extra rehab and tape helped get him ready for the game.
CB Cam Lewis (Forearm)
Lewis remains on the injury report due to a chronic bone infection in his right arm that dates back to college.
C Mitch Morse (Right elbow/right ankle)
After suffering a right ankle injury on the first play of the game against the Browns in Week 11 and playing through the issue before missing last week as he recovered.
He has also been working through a right elbow injury since Week 2 that appears to be a chronic issue at this point.
DT Jordan Phillips (Eye)
Phillips practiced in full all week despite an eye designation. It’s possible that he was poked or hit in the eye at some point during the game.
DE Greg Rousseau (Left high-ankle sprain)
Rousseau returns to the lineup after missing three games due to a left high-ankle sprain suffered against the Jets in Week 9. He hasn’t looked fantastic in practice but may be pressed into service a little faster than the team would like due to the absence of Von Miller.
I would expect they keep Rousseau exclusively on the left side to keep his left foot out and able to push off to bend the edge. If he lines up on the right, he has to put his left foot into eversion and dorsiflexion, stressing the still-healing syndesmosis.
S Siran Neal, S Jordan Poyer, LB Tyler Matakevich, RB Nyheim Hines (Illness- Sunday)
S Damar Hamlin, CB Dane Jackson, S Jaquan Johnson, WR Khalil Shakir (Illness- Monday)
All missed practice at some point Sunday or Monday as another illness swept through the locker room. None have a game designation indicating they will play Thursday.
G Ike Boettger (Left Achilles)
The Bills opened Boettger’s 21-day window on Sunday, clearing the way for him to eventually return after tearing his left Achilles in the Week 16 matchup against the New England Patriots. I expect them to use his full practice window before he comes back. Keep in mind, they also need to make a roster move to bring him back onto the active roster meaning cutting a player or putting someone on injured reserve will occur.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS INJURY REPORT
RB Damien Harris (Thigh)
Harris was ruled out earlier this week with a thigh injury in the first half against the Vikings after a carry for no gain, unable to return. He was seen with crutches after the game, indicating the severity. By video, it is a pretty mild-looking hit and potentially to his left side. He was seen jogging off in some discomfort.
While this appears to be a thigh contusion, attempting to run on multiple plays and get hit in the area would limit his effectiveness. His role has been reduced as of late, but his absence only gives more snaps to Rhomondre Stevenson and Pierre Strong Jr.
OT Isaiah Wynn (Foot)
Wynn has been beaten up all season, dealing with shoulder, back, and hip injuries, and now a foot injury. He injured it in the first half of the Week 11 contest against the New York Jets.
He missed Week 12 against the Vikings and will now miss his second consecutive game.
S Jabrill Peppers (Illness)
Peppers missed Tuesday’s practice with an illness before returning on Wednesday for a limited practice, leaving him questionable for the game.
OT Trent Brown (Illness)
Brown was added to the injury report Thursday with an illness, making him questionable for Thursday.
OT Yodney Cajuste (Calf)
Cajuste injured his calf last Wednesday, just prior to Thursday’s game against the Vikings. He was pressed into service due to the injury to Isaiah Wynn, playing in 100 percent of snaps. I would expect he plays again with another week to recover and play the bulk of snaps.
C David Andrews (Left thigh)
Andrews suffered a left thigh injury with 2:33 left in the first quarter against the New York Jets when he took a hard shot to his thigh running up the field.
He required assistance to walk off the field and early reports indicated that the injury was severe enough to be season-ending. However, he is attempting to play through it, missing last week’s game against the Vikings.
Andrews was limited all week but even a deep thigh contusion would bring on swelling and difficulty in extending the knee due to the weakness within the muscle. If I am a defensive tackle, I am doing everything I can to push him over to his left side to not only have him hit the leg and knock him out of the game but to overload the already weak musculature and prevent him from blocking effectively.
CB Marcus Jones (Ankle)
Jones suffered an ankle injury against the Jets in the second quarter and was questionable heading into the Vikings game. He ultimately played in 55 percent of snaps.
WR Jakobi Meyers (Right shoulder)
Meyers injured his right shoulder on the first offensive play of the game against the Vikings last Thursday. He missed a portion of the game before returning in the second half. He was only able to play in key third and fourth downs before requiring an ice pack after the game.
Considering he was able to return to play and can play this week suggests an AC joint sprain in addition to looking at the film. He will require padding and an injection to get through the game but may be limited to catches to the left side of his body and reduced blocking duties.
CB Jalen Mills (Groin)
Mills was limited this week due to a groin injury that does not have any specifics.
WR DeVante Parker (MCL sprain)
Parker is questionable yet again after suffering a knee sprain back against the Jets in Week 8. He missed the following game and then had the bye to address rehab. He has played in the last two games, playing in 85 percent of snaps.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
DE Von Miller- placed on IR
OT Dion Dawkins
TE Quinton Morris
LB Baylon Spector
OL Justin Murray
CB Cam Lewis
Call ups: WR John Brown
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PROJECTED INACTIVES
OT Isaiah Wynn
RB Damien Harris
CB Shaun Wade
DT Sam Roberts
S Joshuah Bledsoe
Banged Up Bills Best Bet
Record: 4-3 +1.00 unit
The Detroit Lions kept it a lot closer than it should have been last week, covering the spread despite the Bills having to kick a game-winning field goal.
However, the Bills have the ability to put up points when it matters and in a must-win game, they should be able to put up more than 20 and win by at least a touchdown. This makes my bet 1 unit on the Bills to cover the spread at -3.5 (-110) at BetMGM.
The AFC East has been far tougher than anyone expected coming into the season. The Bills are in a must-win game to secure their first divisional win and stay in contention for first place.
If the Patriots win, that throws the whole division into disarray and could leave the Bills to be potentially fighting for the division crown in Week 17, not an ideal situation for the defending division champs.
This will come down to who makes fewer mistakes and if the Bills draw up some magic from last season’s playoff win. Both teams know what’s at stake, this should be a very competitive game.
Top Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus/AP