December football in the AFC East is truly spectacular this season! Every team is still playing meaningful football games that can shape legacies or narratives for the offseason.
The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins square off in Orchard Park on Saturday night in the snow for a game that will essentially decide the AFC East champions. Out west, the New England Patriots fight for a playoff spot against the Las Vegas Raiders who could play spoiler down the stretch. Finally, the New York Jets host the red-hot Detroit Lions in an exciting matchup that no one saw coming in September.
Below are the detailed injury reports for each AFC East team heading into Week 15.
Note: With the AFC East injury reports, not every injury on the report will have a detailed analysis. While I do want to highlight every injury, some don’t have any context. For those that do have context, there will be as much medical analysis as I can provide.
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 won’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.
From my article at Cover 1 on Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth:
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.
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 suggesting he is in Stage 2 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 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 poor footing due to 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.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
CB Jalen Mills (Groin)
Mills has missed the last two weeks with a groin strain originally picked up in Week 12. He was able to practice in a limited role the following week leading up to the Bills game but had to shut it down for a week, possibly due to a setback.
He was able to return to practice this week with a limited designation but was unable to practice Friday, downgrading his status to out. Considering he has been off for the past two weeks, it’s surprising he isn’t able to go quite yet. There may be something bigger going on such as a core muscle injury, but we will not know the details of that until after the season if that’s the case.
WR DeVante Parker (Concussion)
Parker got rocked late in the first quarter of Monday’s game on a dropped pass as seen below.
He appeared disoriented and still managed to line up for the next play before teammates began demanding attention to stop the game. Parker was taken off the field and in for further examination revealing the concussion.
The veteran receiver has been in concussion protocol all week and will miss this week’s game against the Raiders as he was unable to complete a full practice.
OL Isaiah Wynn (Right foot)
Wynn has not played since injuring his right foot in Week 11, exiting in the first half. He attempted to practice the first week after injury but besides a limited practice, he has not been able to participate.
Looking back, one has to question why he was not placed on IR, but the injury may not have initially required this lengthy timeline. This suggests some type of possible bone bruise or even impingement that can carry wildly varying timelines. Due to the depth issues they have had on the offensive line too, they probably did not want to put anyone on the shelf that they did not have to.
It remains to be seen how much longer he is out. There is a thought that this is self-preservation in a contract year, but that can’t be confirmed.
CB Jack Jones (Knee)
Per Jones himself, he is working through a bruised knee that kept him out of the majority of Monday’s game, exiting in the first quarter.
This may come down to how much pain he is still dealing with and how bad any swelling is within the area. If he does not have the full range of motion, then this could impact his ability to transition smoothly or jump and land on the affected knee. Considering Jalen Mills is out once again, I would expect Jones to try and give it a go.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson (Left high-ankle/turf toe)
Stevenson injured his left ankle/foot in the first quarter on Monday when he was tackled on a three-yard run. He appeared to suffer a high-ankle sprain along with a possible turf toe due to his toe getting jammed into the ground.
Even a mild high-ankle sprain will keep the young back out for at least the next two or three games at a minimum. When he does come back, he still won’t be fully healthy and have trouble cutting to the left and driving off the foot effectively. It’s fortunate that Damien Harris could come back this week, but it doesn’t help the depth of the position. I don’t see how Stevenson plays this week with the injury we see on film.
DT Christian Barmore (Knee)
Barmore returned to practice this week after missing the last seven games due to a knee injury originally sustained late in practice prior to Week 6. It’s unclear whether he underwent surgery to address the problem, but he has returned to practice at a critical juncture when the Patriots are in the hunt for another playoff spot. He has yet to be activated, but that day may be coming sooner than later to help bolster the defensive line.
OT Yodney Cajuste (Calf)
Cajuste continues to work through a calf injury sustained in practice prior to Week 12, not missing any time since then. It’s not surprising that he remains on the injury report as anyone on the injury report means they are still receiving treatment in order to potentially play that week. It’s important to note that Cajuste did not see any offensive snaps on Monday, only getting five special teams snaps which is a significant drop off from his role the past few weeks.
RB Damien Harris (Left thigh)
Harris has missed the last two games due to a deep thigh contusion suffered against the Vikings in Week 12. While the hit didn’t appear to be all that much on video, it’s been significant enough that he is unable to effectively run and cut on the left.
With the expected absence of Rhomandre Stevenson, I expect Harris to return to his starting role, but concede some of the workloads to Pierre Strong Jr and Kevin Harris.
WR Jakobi Meyers (Concussion)
Meyers is working through a concussion sustained against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13, the result of a punishing hit from S Damar Hamlin. He has been limited this week indicating he is working through the concussion protocol, indicating that he is at least on the field.
He is officially questionable for the game which means he needs to get cleared by the independent neurologist in order to play Sunday.
LS Joe Cardona (Ankle)
A rare appearance on the injury report by a long snapper in general, Cardona is working through an ankle injury sustained sometime on Monday night. The injury was severe enough to have the team bring in a long snapper for a tryout for insurance, but Cardona was able to get full practices on Thursday and Friday, signifying that this is not a big issue moving forward.
NEW YORK JETS
QB Mike White (Ribs)
Quite possibly the toughest guy on the field in Week 14, White took punishing hit after punishing hit Sunday, leaving several times for assessments and imaging before returning to play.
These hits were so severe that he required further assessment at a local hospital before he was cleared to return home. After further evaluation by team doctors with additional imaging, it was determined that he suffered several rib fractures.
According to multiple reports, White sought out the opinions of 10 doctors in order to find one that would clear him to play. This is in light of the fact that he was able to practice all week.
White went into further detail stating that where several of the fractures are, more hits to the area could result in more damage. Team doctors and he had to consider the damage to multiple internal organs including the liver, stomach, spleen, and other structures that could cause internal bleeding.
He does understand the opportunity he has in front of him to play, but this is an instance where he needs to be saved from himself.
He will miss this game and very likely the next on a short week next Thursday. Even a Week 17 return may not be guaranteed if the ribs are slow to heal or there is a concern for re-injury. Former starting QB Zach Wilson will get the start on Sunday.
WR Corey Davis (Concussion)
Davis suffered a concussion with 5:20 left in the first quarter after a 15-yard play resulted in a tackle from Bills CB Dane Jackson.
After the hit, he was slow to get up, requiring trading staff to come out and assess before walking off under his own power. It is unknown how long it will take for Davis to pass through the concussion protocol, at least missing this game.
CB Brandon Echols (Quad)
Echols was a new addition to the injury report Wednesday with a quadriceps injury, unable to practice all week. He is no stranger to quad injuries having suffered one last year, and missing three games.
Depending on the severity, this could be a season-ending injury as this could linger until the end of the regular season.
DT Quinnen Williams (Left calf)
Williams went down without contact with 8:34 left in the second quarter, striking a brief fear into all Jets fans. After further examination on the sidelines, he was designated with a left calf strain, questionable to return.
He was observed walking to the locker room with some type of tape on the inside portion of his left calf. The medial gastroc is the most common portion of the muscle to be injured. During practice this week, he was seen wearing a sleeve on the entire leg to control for any swelling.
He was unable to practice all week and officially questionable for the game. While best practice would say he doesn’t play, this is a do-or-die game for the Jets for playoff positioning, the same can be said for the Lions.
Williams may be a true game-time decision, but there is a really high risk of re-injuring his calf which could lead to an early exit and long absence. He may just try to gut it out to help get his team to the playoffs.
OT Duane Brown (Left shoulder)
Brown continues to receive treatment for his left rotator cuff tear suffered shortly after signing with the team. He has not masked a snap since returning from injured reserve following Week 4 and continues to perform well at left tackle.
OT George Fant (Knee)
Fant continues to remain on the injury report due to a knee issue that possibly dates back to last season from an off-season knee surgery. He does not have a game-day designation and will suit up on Sunday.
DE John Franklin-Myers (Illness)
Franklin-Myers worked through an illness this week, not practicing Wednesday before a limited practice Thursday. He was able to practice in full Friday and has no designation.
DE Michael Clemons (Knee)
Clemons is a surprise addition to the injury report this week with a knee designation. This comes after missing last week due to an illness that kept him out of practice all week.
Top Photo Credit: Phinsider.com