With a chance to lock up the AFC East this weekend in Chicago, Mother Nature certainly won’t make things easy. Significant storms are expected in the City by the Lake making Saturday’s game challenging not only to have to get there early but to play on a snowy and windy field.
The Bills appear to be getting healthier as the playoffs near, but they will still be without several key contributors heading into Week 16. They also face a Bears team that has had its own share of injuries and is looking to end the season on a positive note. QB Justin Fields is looking to break the quarterback rushing record set by Ravens QB Lamar Jackson several years ago despite the poor conditions.
Below are the full injury reports for each team heading into Saturday along with projected inactives and Banged Up Bills Best Bet.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURY REPORT
C Mitch Morse (Concussion)
To no surprise, Morse has been ruled out with a concussion following Saturday’s game. To recall, he suffered the concussion with 14:38 left in the 3rd quarter on a block around the end. He collided face mask to face mask with his block and then was in for one more play before coming out on fourth down.
He was evaluated for a head injury and later diagnosed with a concussion, the sixth of his career. It appears as though the Bills are treating this concussion as any other one prior. There is an obvious concern for his health, but we have to assume the Bills have some level of comfort in his health having inked him to an extension back in March.
He will need to pass through the five-stage protocol before returning which could be as soon as Week 17 or it could be several weeks. This is simply a wait-and-see approach.
DE Boogie Basham (Calf)
Basham has been ruled out after suffering a calf injury at some point in the Dolphins game Saturday. It’s not clear when he suffered the injury, but he did not play at all in the fourth quarter and there weren’t any plays where he came up limping.
Hopefully this week off plus the few extra days prior to Monday night in Week 17 will allow him to heal. It takes 17.4 days on average for a player to return to play following a calf injury when looking at NFL players.
DT Ed Oliver (Calf)
Oliver popped up on the injury report with a calf designation Wednesday after having no designation the day prior. This suggests that he suffered the injury in practice, causing him to miss at least one rep.
The hope is that it was more precautionary due to the cold this week and making sure he was fresh for Saturday. With the playoffs looming and poor footing expected on Saturday due to the snow, I don’t see how Oliver could play effectively or at least not run the risk of missing bigger matchups such as Cincinnati next week.
DT Jordan Phillips (Right shoulder)
Phillips returned to practice this week as a limited participant after suffering a right shoulder injury back in Week 13 against the New England Patriots. By video, he appeared to suffer either a subluxation or dislocation when he fell with his arm outstretched trying to chase down QB Mac Jones.
He was not able to practice the last two weeks as he rehabbed out of view of the team. It’s not clear if Phillips was wearing a harness as he wore long sleeves on Tuesday and a winter coat Wednesday. If Ed Oliver cannot go, then the chances for Phillips to play increase. Of the two, I would expect Phillips more likely to play, but I can see a scenario where they hold Phillips out one more week to be fully ready the next.
QB Josh Allen (Right elbow)
Allen was limited on Wednesday with a sore right elbow that he continues to require treatment on from his sprain in Week 9.
He went further into stating that the training staff limited him which allowed his elbow to feel really good the following day.
By now, it’s known that his elbow injury is more in the management stage. He was able to practice in full on Wednesday and Thursday but is starting to look like his normal self again which might come at the cost of some maintenance days to get rest when he can.
G Ryan Bates (Right ankle)
Bates appears on the mend after suffering a right medial ankle sprain against the New York Jets in Week 14. This was the result of getting rolled up at the goal line on the Josh Allen touchdown run.
He missed last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins and is still not likely 100 percent. He will be pressed into service due to Mitch Morse being ruled out due to his concussion last week. Having the whole week to get in sync with Josh Allen should only help the efficiency of the offense.
DE AJ Epenesa (Left elbow)
Epenesa has been able to practice in full all week with a left elbow injury that happened sometime in the third quarter on Saturday. He required some medical attention on the sidelines and later returned with a black elbow wrap to finish the game.
He was spotted wearing it again at practice this week and likely for the game. I don’t see any bracing in the area that may suggest needing stability for a sprain nor was there a noticeable mechanism for that. He could be dealing with a muscle strain in the elbow or forearm.
With the absence of Basham, Epenes will likely see an uptick in snaps Saturday.
CB Cam Lewis (Right forearm)
Lewis’s status has not changed all year, practicing in full with a bone infection in his forearm from a fracture in college. The team either must be frequently monitoring the area or getting some type of treatment to keep things stable.
LB Matt Milano (Left knee)
Milano continues to work through the left knee injury originally sustained early against the New England Patriots in Week 13. While thought to be a bad contusion at first, this injury has lingered longer than I would have thought by this point. There is a multitude of possibilities that he could be dealing with, making a more precise injury hard to pinpoint.
However, he has not missed any time and has continued to perform exceptionally well despite the injury. Considering how long the season is, these players need treatment and rest more than anything. If they need any additional time in the training room, then so be it.
S Jordan Poyer (Knee)
Poyer put a scare into the fan base when he did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday due to banging his knee last Saturday.
It’s not clear when he banged the knee, but he was able to play in 100 percent of defensive snaps and several special teams. Poyer has been a warrior this season, playing through numerous injuries. I don’t expect this one to keep him out.
G Rodger Saffold (Knee)
Saffold appeared on the injury report with a vet rest day and knee designation Tuesday. He returned to full practice the rest of the week. The veteran offensive lineman has a lot of miles on him so to see him need a rest day along with a minor injury that required some treatment is of no surprise.
CHICAGO BEARS INJURY REPORT
TE Trevon Wesco (Calf)
Wesco has missed the last two games due to a calf injury sustained in Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers. He was unable to practice all week and has been ruled out for Saturday.
WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Concussion)
Brown suffered a concussion in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, ending his day after just three snaps. He was unable to practice all week, suggesting he has not gotten past Stage 1 or 2 of the concussion protocol. He is ruled out for Saturday and it remains to be seen when he returns.
CB Kindle Vildor (Ankle)
Vildor has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and has not seen any snaps since Week 12. He was unable to practice this week, ruling him out for his third consecutive game. Harrison Hand will be elevated from the practice squad.
Update: Vildor has been placed on IR, allowing the Bears to activate Khalil Herbert.
OL Cody Whitehair (Knee)
Whitehair suffered a knee injury against the Philadelphia Eagles and was not expected to play as early as Wednesday. Losing the starting left guard for this game and potentially several more will not do Justin Fields or the running game any favors. He is officially doubtful, but it’s not expected that he suits up.
WR Chase Claypool (Knee)
Claypool is doubtful after not practicing all week due to a knee injury originally sustained in the Week 13 contest against the Green Bay Packers. While he was able to return to that contest, he has not played the last two weeks and has been unable to practice.
Doubtful players rarely play and if he did, he wouldn’t be much more than either a decoy or possession receiver, unable to advance the ball or run his whole route tree.
OL Teven Jenkins (Neck)
Jenkins left last week’s game following the first possession when he went to his left to block, hitting a defender and going down. He was immobilized coming off the field as any player would when there is a suspected neck injury based on the Canadian C-Spine rules.
He managed to avoid the worst but he was limited in a walkthrough on Tuesday before downgrading on Wednesday and Thursday with DNPs. Whether this is more whiplash or something greater, returning too soon could lead to an early exit or worsen the injury.
CB Jaylon Johnson (Finger/ribs)
Johnson left the Eagles game with an abdominal injury, but what now appears to be a rib designation, suggesting bruised ribs. He has said that he plans to play despite the injury in addition to dealing with a finger issue.
He later clarified that he is dealing with a ring finger injury. Further clarification revealed that this is a left ring finger fracture, leaving him to play with a cast or club. He could be an excellent target for the Bills to go after in the secondary.
Update: despite Johnson’s optimism, he has been placed on injured reserve as noted in the tweet above.
CB Josh Blackwell (Shoulder)
Blackwell practiced in full all week with a shoulder designation and has not missed a game this season. He has mainly seen his contributions on special teams but may have to see more defensive snaps with several other injuries on the roster.
OL Larry Borom (Knee)
Borom has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury but was able to practice in full this week. He will likely see significant playing time due to Jenkins and Whitehair likely being out.
WR N’Keal Harry (Back)
Harry was able to practice in full all week despite a back designation that forced him out of last week’s contest. This was despite practicing in full the prior week. He does not have a gameday designation meaning he will be active.
DL Justin Jones/OL Riley Reiff (Illness)
Both missed Tuesday’s walkthrough due to illness before returning to practice in full the rest of the week.
DL Armon Watts (Shoulder)
Watts showed up on the injury report Wednesday with a shoulder designation after not appearing on Tuesday, suggesting that he suffered the issue in practice. He was able to practice in full despite the injury, but it must have been significant enough to require treatment.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
C Mitch Morse
DE Boogie Basham
DT Ed Oliver
DT Jordan Phillips
LB Baylon Spector
CB Xavier Rhodes
TE Tommy Sweeney
Call-ups: DT Brandin Bryant, WR Cole Beasley
CHICAGO BEARS PROJECTED INACTIVES
TE Trevon Wesco
WR Equanimeous St. Brown
OL Teven Jenkins
OL Cody Whitehair
WR Chase Claypool
CB Kindle Vildor- on IR
Call ups: CB Harrison Hand
Banged Up Bills Best Bet
Record: 6-4 +2.00 units
The weather can and will likely mess up these betting lines. The safe bet may be to pick the Bills Moneyline, but won’t be as much of a handsome payout at -400. We saw what happened last week with the snow in Orchard Park in a thrilling 32-29 victory over the Dolphins. I expect the score to be close again and with the Bills favored at -8.5, that seems like a line that the Bears could cover at home. This makes my bet 1 unit on the Bears to cover the spread at +8.5 (-110) at BetMGM.
This game will come down to ball security and who can be the most efficient with their scoring chances. Buffalo is clearly the better team in nearly all facets, but the Bears are led by a young, hungry quarterback that is willing to do what it takes and looking to make a statement in a lost season.
The Bills just need to go in and get the win by any means necessary. With the field conditions, I do not expect a lot of soft tissue injuries due to the poor footing, but we may see slips, falls, and unintended hits leading to early days for several players on both sides of the ball. I hope the Bills are safe in their travels as they head to Chicago early and on the way back as Western New York deals with a major storm of their own. I also hope everyone reading this stays warm, and safe, and Happy Holidays.
Top Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images