Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 Injury Preview

Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins Week 15 Injury Preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins

Playoffs, AFC East divisional crown, bragging rights, and so much more are on the line Saturday night in Orchard Park at 8:15 pm.

Both teams come into this matchup hungry and beaten up from an already long season of football. Season-ending injuries, ill-timed absences, and gutting it out have been themes for both teams this season. This should be an entertaining game, but the weather and injuries may be the great equalizer in all of this. 

But you’re not here for the weather, you’re here for the injuries. Below are the full injury reports for both teams along with projected inactives and Banged Up Bills Best Bet.



G Ryan Bates (Right ankle)

Bates did not practice all week with a right low-ankle sprain suffered on the Josh Allen touchdown run on Sunday. This was the result of getting rolled up midway through the play, and having to hobble off with the training staff. 

Fortunately, he avoided the dreaded high-ankle sprain but looks to be dealing with a medial ankle sprain based on the mechanism of injury. The deltoid ligament is very strong inside but is still susceptible to injury, especially in this case.

According to research, most ankle injuries take about a week to return, but losing a day in that recovery didn’t help him in playing. The Bills are taking a cautious approach in sitting him for this game, allowing him to get extra rest.

DT Jordan Phillips (Right shoulder)

Phillips is set to miss his second consecutive game following his right shoulder injury against the New England Patriots in Week 13. This was the result of Phillips trying to chase down Mac Jones as he scrambled to his right. As Jones ran, Phillips tried catching him and fell down with his arm outstretched, landing on his shoulder area. He was observed in a sling after the game and said he would be alright, but the facts show a different outlook.

My hope was that he only suffered an AC joint sprain as that is a possible mechanism of injury, landing with an arm outstretched. I try to be optimistic in my assessment, not immediately going to doom and gloom or worst-case scenario every time. But the fear was that he suffered a subluxation/dislocation event in the shoulder, leading to potential labrum damage.

The labrum helps deepen the shoulder socket by creating a cartilage ring for the humeral head to articulate with the glenoid fossa of the scapula in order to allow the shoulder to stay in place. When a labral tear occurs, a part of that rim tears, creating instability within the joint during movement. Think of a golf tee that has a chip out of the top. When the golf ball is placed on top, it does not sit as securely and is more likely to fall off.

Injuries to the labrum occur when there is a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow, or pulling on the shoulder strongly enough to cause a shoulder dislocation. These can also occur with athletes performing overhead throwing activities with abduction and external rotation and can commonly be observed with rotator cuff pathologies. Partial dislocations, also known as subluxations, can occur with the joint being disrupted enough with similar mechanisms of injury that the labrum could tear. 

From my article at Cover 1 on Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth:

Research shows that athletes can return anywhere from 0-to-3 weeks based on whether it was a shoulder subluxation or dislocation event. Based on what we are seeing playing out in real time having missed the past two games, it’s more likely that he suffered a dislocation. 

It’s very common to return to play after even a dislocation of the shoulder. The key thing needed for Phillips is rest and rehab to strengthen the surrounding musculature of the shoulder. Once he can restore his full range of motion and restore his strength in the area, then he can begin working towards football-specific activities including blocking and tackling. He will have to wear a shoulder harness, very similar to what we see Ed Oliver wearing to prevent abduction and external rotation to help prevent re-injury. 

Even with the bracing, 47 percent of athletes with prior instability had another instability event, meaning that Phillips is at a high risk to sublux or dislocating the shoulder again. He can return to play and still be effective, but blocking with the arm extended places a lot of stress on the shoulder which could further stress the joint. Tackling or landing on his arm again could cause the shoulder to suffer further instability events as well. 

If the labrum tear is bad enough, Phillips will likely require surgery in the offseason, but unless the team announces that he is going on IR, I expect him to play through the injury. He could return to practice next week and potentially play, but how his shoulder responds to rehab will be an important determination.


FB Reggie Gilliam (Right ankle)

Gilliam was able to get in several limited practices this week before logging a full practice Thursday. This comes after exiting the Patriots game in Week 13 with a right ankle injury during the second-half kickoff when Tyrel Dodson clipped him from either the outside or behind the ankle, causing him to miss the following game. His return will be welcomed, especially on special teams.

LB Matt Milano (Knee)

After being questionable heading into the Jets game with a knee injury, Milano did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, getting in some limited work Thursday. However, he does not have a designation and will suit up Saturday.

The video wasn’t clear about what he was dealing with when he suffered the injury against the Patriots. But this is an injury that needs to be addressed by reducing his workload for the week and saving his best for the game. It would not surprise me if this injury lingers a little longer but he continues to play. 

DT Ed Oliver (Right pectoral)

Oliver’s injury designation changed to pectoral on Tuesday which narrowed down the injury possibilities. In the video clip below, Oliver is seen wearing a shoulder harness on his right arm. 

Knowing that this is a pectoral issue, it strongly suggests that he has a pectoral strain. By video, it’s hard to discern how he injured the pectoral muscle as his arm did not get pulled backward abruptly. However, the pushing and pulling at the position could lead to a sudden overload of the muscle, even briefly. 

The fact that he was limited all week further suggests that it’s relatively minor, but still an issue. The harness will prevent the arm from coming too far into horizontal abduction or external rotation, both stressing the pectoral muscle. 

I’m not concerned about his availability, but the harness is precautionary to ensure he does not injure the muscle further. To the naked eye, I don’t anticipate much of a drop-off in play but there may be minor adjustments in how he tackles or engages the right side. 

QB Josh Allen (Right elbow)

Allen continues to remain on the injury report as he rehabs his right elbow sprain from Week 9. WGR’s Sal Capaccio highlighted why he remains on the injury report below. 

That information helps clarify several others on this list and also in past weeks why a guy lingers. This could also highlight when someone still isn’t fully healthy or could see their production limited in some way. Certainly an excellent nugget of information for future use. 

He did also say that the elbow will have to be managed for the foreseeable future on the Pat McAfee show. This means that it’s still not fully healed, but certainly far better than last month as he worked through the injury.

CB Cam Lewis (Right forearm)

Lewis has been a mainstay on the injury report due to a chronic bone infection in his right forearm from when he broke the arm in college. He continues to wear a brace on the area for protection, but knowing that he continues to receive treatment based on the above tweet, it begs the question, what type of treatment does one get for chronic osteomyelitis? Full disclosure, this is something that I have dug into with some results, but have not found a clear-cut answer to the exact course of treatment.

C Mitch Morse (Right elbow)

Morse continues to require treatment for his right elbow injury from Week 2. Whether this is bone chips, a UCL sprain, or some type of tendinitis, it’s not clear. But he continues to require treatment that we may get more information about after the season. 



S Elijah Campbell (Concussion)

Campbell exited Sunday’s loss to the Chargers in the second half, officially later diagnosed with a concussion. As he was unable to practice all week other than getting some work off to the side in a red jersey suggesting he is in Stage 2 or 3 of the concussion protocol.

As he was unable to return to practice in pads this week, he has not passed the full protocol and has been ruled out. 

S Eric Rowe (Hamstring)

Rowe suffered a hamstring injury sometime in the second half of the game over the Chargers. Considering the demands of the position, the acuteness of the injury, and slick conditions, it’s highly unlikely he plays. If he did, he would be ineffective and have an early exit.

Considering he is a starter for the team, his absence will only be more painful if the Buffalo passing game picks up throughout the day 


WR River Cracraft (Calf)

Cracraft missed last week’s game due to a calf injury that he appeared to suffer in practice last week based on practice participation. Not practicing at all this week as he recovered from the strain nearly seals his fate, and I expect him to miss his second consecutive game.


OT Terron Armstead (Right toe/Left pectoral/Knee)

Armstead continues the trend of injuries that he plays through dating back to his time with the New Orleans Saints. To recap, he has been dealing with a right toe injury since injuring the area in Week 1. This is either a nagging turf toe issue or even a plantar plate tear that he continues to work through. 

The pectoral injury was reported as a Grade 2 strain after suffering the injury against the Houston Texans. This forced Armstead out of the contest against the San Francisco 49ers before he came back to play against the Los Angeles Chargers, playing in 100 percent of snaps.

Armstead is working through a knee issue that isn’t clear when he injured the knee. He did have surgery in the off-season on his right knee but it wasn’t clear the exact procedure.

Whether this is related to that is unclear, but with a game of this magnitude, I expect Armstead to play even after not practicing all week. An injured Armstead at 70 percent is still likely better than most of the other options on the team.

RB Jeff Wilson (Right hip)

Wilson is a true game-time decision for his right hip injury that occurred on a routine run with 6:22 left in the second quarter on Sunday. He broke several tackles before getting wrapped up and pulled down awkwardly with his right leg getting planted in the turf. With the foot plated and as his body turned, it awkwardly twisted his hip into internal rotation and flexion before he went down. 

He is considered day-to-day with the team stating he avoided the worst. This looks like it could be a generalized hip sprain based on the mechanism of injury. He was only able to get a limited practice on Friday which doesn’t look good for Sunday. 

To be on a slick surface and then having to cut off that affected hip, and having to push harder for the same effect doesn’t look great for his chances for Sunday. 

QB Teddy Bridgewater (Knee)

Bridgewater continues to work through his chronic knee issue that dates back to an injury sustained in practice prior to Week 10. It’s not clear which knee is affected, but a strong assumption is that this is the knee that suffered the significant ACL tear with associated damage that nearly ended his career in 2016. 


WR Tyreek Hill (Left ankle)

Hill injured his left ankle sometime in the first half of the Sunday hand against the Chargers, at times seen icing his ankle on the sidelines. 

However, the injury is minor as he showed with his 60-yard touchdown seen below. The exact play he was injured on isn’t clear, but he likely has a low ankle sprain.

The snow Saturday won’t help, but cutting to the left with poor footing may be problematic at times. I still expect him to be a dangerous weapon on offense come game time.

CB Kader Kohou (Right thumb/Neck)

Kohou has been working through a thumb injury since the Dolphins’ bye in Week 11. He has had to wear a protective brace on the area suggesting a bad sprain or even a small fracture, but neither has been reported as such. 

As for his neck injury, there doesn’t appear to be any information on the specifics of that. He has been able to practice in full this week indicating that this may be more of a minor annoyance. 

TE Durham Smythe (Quad/Knee)

Smythe was on the injury report last week with the same designation and ended up playing in the game, receiving no targets but playing in 59 percent of snaps. 

The Dolphins took a similar approach with his groin injury last month in having him play, but appears to be more of the blocking tight end to prevent aggravation of the soft tissue issues. Also factoring in the offensive line issues especially at tackle, keeping him home may be an additional benefit.

DT Justin Zimmer (Back)

Zimmer was questionable heading into the Week 14 matchup with a back injury but was ultimately active, playing just 10 percent of snaps. The exact details of the back injury are not known, but he was able to get a full practice on Wednesday and Thursday, suggesting that this is an improving issue. 

LB Elandon Roberts (Ribs)

Roberts suffered a rib injury with 10:04 left in the first quarter, initially questionable to return. He was able to return later and finish the game which suggests that he may be dealing with a rib contusion. He was able to practice in full all week further confirming the minor severity of the injury. 


DT Jordan Phillips

G Ryan Bates

CB Cam Lewis

TE Tommy Sweeney

LB Baylon Spector

CB Xavier Rhodes

*Cut Justin Murray/Activate Ike Boettger

Call ups: WR Cole Beasley


WR River Cracraft

S Eric Rowe

S Elijah Campbell

RB Jeff Wilson

QB Skylar Thompson

Banged Up Bills Best Bet

Record: 5-4 +1.00 unit

Picking the over in a game with rain and sleet was not a great pick despite the Bills coming in hungry last week. Punting most of the first half didn’t help the overall point total for either team, leading to the lost bet. 

The snow could really neutralize everything here which could throw the points really out of whack both in the total and the margin. I’m keeping it simple making my bet 1 unit on the Bills Moneyline (-300) at BetMGM.

Final thoughts

Personal note, my Bills fandom goes back to the mid-2000s when I arrived in Buffalo for college. I’m also too young to have appreciated the Super Bowl runs or even the rivalry between the Bills and Dolphins. As a result, I have only heard how intense the rivalry was between the two teams some 30+ years ago. 

Buffalo and Miami games have always been entertaining to watch, but not like this. Both teams are firmly in the playoff picture, fighting for the division crown; it doesn’t get much better. 

Maybe a playoff matchup this season could top that. 

Due to the changing weather conditions, I am not expecting a lot of major injuries due to poor footing. However, some strains/sprains may occur due to the difficulty in controlling the body on what is expected to be a slick surface. I’m looking forward to this game from both a historical context and how the outcomes will affect each team. This will be a good one.

Top Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)