The AFC East runs through Buffalo for the third consecutive season! The Bills defeated the Chicago Bears 35-13 on Saturday, securing their twelfth win of the season and at least one home playoff game.
After so much football that ended around this time of the year for nearly two decades, it’s such an awesome change to see a competitive football team in Buffalo. Especially this year, facing the adversity that the team has had to deal with when it comes to injuries, it’s only appeared to make the team more resilient.
Fortunately, the Bills did not suffer any major injuries coming out of Sunday’s win, but several injuries to note are detailed below.
TE Dawson Knox (R hip pointer)
Knox had to briefly leave the game following a 24-yard catch that caused him to land on his right side.
Initial views show that he landed on his right shoulder, suggesting an AC joint sprain off the hard field, but a replay of the fall reveals that he landed on his hip, causing a hip pointer. These are also known as a contusion to the iliac crest.
This injury is usually more about pain and tenderness, but still an actual injury. This isn’t the type of injury to keep Knox out, especially after he returned after missing only several snaps. According to the research, players lost an average of 5.6 days during training due to this event.
Stretching and strengthening the area will help the bruise heal and if needed, the team can inject him with an anesthetic on game day if it’s still bothering him. He may show up on the injury report this week receiving treatment, but this should not hinder him considering he has several extra days off due to the Monday game.
G Ryan Bates (Right knee)
Bates went down late in the second quarter when DL Andrew Brown rolled into the outside of his right leg, forcing him down as seen below.
He was able to walk off under his own power and eventually did return with a brace on the right knee, suggesting a mild MCL sprain. This was later confirmed in post-game pictures as they celebrated the division win.
Bates moved fairly well despite the injury in the second half, further suggesting the lack of severity of the injury. It’s worth highlighting that this is the same leg that he had gotten rolled up on, suffering a medial ankle sprain back in Week 14 against the Jets that forced him to miss the following game.
Hopefully, he can slide back to guard when Mitch Morse returns from his concussion sustained in Week 14.
DT Jordan Phillips (Right shoulder)
This was one of the more subtle injuries in Saturday’s game when Phillips exited multiple times due to his right shoulder injury.
It’s suspected that he tore his labrum against the Patriots in Week 13, forcing him to miss the following two games. In the videos above, you can see him play with a harness and tape on the area. Every time he went to engage a block or tackle on the plays above, the shoulder likely shifted in the socket, causing pain and weakness, preventing him from using the arm.
To get an idea of how the shoulder subluxated or dislocates, check out this short video explaining the anatomy and mechanism of injury.
Because of this instability, I thought they would have kept him out an additional week, but returning this week may have been of Phillips’s doing. He did return after missing two games with his hamstring injury in Week 2, tweaking it against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He could continue to play through this injury and likely will, but future instability events are expected to occur. Phillips could limit his snaps or only go in for passing plays, but that also screws up the defensive line rotation.
Having several extra days off will help in his rehab, but trying to strengthen the shoulder back up after instability events isn’t always quick to work. I can see a scenario where he guts out this week to play against the Cincinnati Bengals and then takes the following week off against the Patriots to rehab, hopefully getting the bye week with the number one seed as well.
OT Spencer Brown (Right hand)
This was simply an observation noted late in the game as Brown was slow to get up after the play below.
He appeared to get his hand caught in a pile of bodies as they went to the ground, possibly injuring something. Brown did not miss any time due to the injury, but on a cold day, getting your hand smashed can’t be a pleasant feeling.
Return from IR
Several players are eligible to return from injured reserve this week and based on roster needs, these transactions could occur. CB Christian Benford (oblique), WR Jake Kumerow (Left ankle), WR Jamison Crowder (Left ankle fracture), and S Micah Hyde (Neck surgery).
Of those likely to return sooner than later are Benford and Kumerow. Benford suffered an oblique injury in Week 12 against the Lions while Kumerow re-injured his ankle back in Week 10 against the Vikings. The team hasn’t made any indication that they plan to bring Kumerow back as I do not recall him working off to the side at any point.
Crowder continues to work back from his broken left fibula suffered in Week 4 against the Ravens. Finally, Hyde has been working off to the side following his Week 2 neck injury that forced him to the hospital and later undergoing an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion.
Crowder’s practice window may open up shortly, though it’ll depend on how they can maximize the time frame without activating him. They would either have to keep him on IR or take someone off the active roster to make room for him.
If they can have him practice as long as possible and then activate him due to another injury, that’ll be the least messy approach. But they certainly don’t want to open his practice window too soon.
As for Hyde, his three-month mark from his surgery was the week before Christmas and that is when we see the fusion of the bone begin to create long-term stability. He was given a six-to-nine-month timeline, but Wild Card weekend is his four-month mark. This approach for him to return would be and still is aggressive, but it’s the playoffs and the team has not closed the door on his return.
Let’s hope the Bills lock up the number one seed to give these guys a break and get some more guys healthy and return so they can make one final postseason push.
Finally, I know this weekend has been rough for many in the Western New York area with the blizzard, I hope everyone reading this was able to get heat and electricity back quickly and is safe. We do pride ourselves on being tough in handling the snow, but this storm was on a different level. I hope that life is beginning to return to normal as the snow is removed and services are restored. Despite all of this, I hope everyone was still able to celebrate the holidays in some way.
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