Finally, the playoffs are here!
After 18 arduous weeks filled with adversity, the Bills appear to be getting healthy at the right time as they hit Wild Card weekend.
While the Bills are riding a seven-game winning streak as they enter the playoffs, the Miami Dolphins barely held on to their playoff spot with an 11-6 win over the New York Jets. This snapped a five-game losing streak but after losing multiple starters to injury, this puts the Dolphins at a huge disadvantage.
Below are the injury reports for both teams, inactives, and Banged Up Bills’ best bet.
BUFFALO BILLS INJURY REPORT
WR Isaiah McKenzie (Hamstring)
McKenzie was the only surprise addition to the injury report on Wednesday working through a hamstring strain. He later came out and stated that he suffered the injury in practice while running on Wednesday.
He was unable to practice Thursday and Friday with his fate for the game appeared to be sealed when the Bills signed Cole Beasley to the active roster. McKenzie has played through minor injuries in the past, but this one appears to be too much to overcome for this week. I would expect that he is able to return next week should the Bills advance.
DT Jordan Phillips (Right shoulder)
Phillips continues to work through a right shoulder injury that appears to be a labrum tear due to the mechanism of injury along with his recent struggles. He missed the following two games following the injury in Week 13 before returning and having to exit several times due to pain in the area during the next several games.
The veteran has been seen wearing a shoulder harness and tape on the area to help provide some stability, but once the labrum is torn in the shoulder, the joint is more likely to sublux or dislocate altogether. Phillips was unable to practice at all this week leaving his status in question for Sunday.
Players not practicing during the week typically do not play, though there have been exceptions for the playoffs. Considering how he has struggled in games and the opponent, giving him a week off while calling up someone like Brandin Bryant may be best to keep Phillips fresh for the playoff stretch.
QB Josh Allen (Left ankle/right elbow)
Allen is still receiving treatment on his right UCL sprain from Week 9 and at this point is a chronic issue that won’t get 100 percent better until the offseason. He may still experience occasional pain or soreness in the area with certain throws.
As for his left ankle, this was the result of Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson rolling into his left ankle midway through the first quarter. He clipped Allen’s ankle which required a quick tape job to protect the area, but this appears to be a minor sprain that he is playing through.
There is no concern for either injury at this point heading into the game, but simply a player that requires continued treatment in order to be ready to perform every week.
S Jordan Poyer (Lateral meniscus tear)
Poyer shows up every day, ready to play despite the multitude of injuries he has sustained this season. He revealed he has been playing through a lateral meniscus tear, though he didn’t say when he injured the knee. He banged it up against the Miami Dolphins, but I’m willing to bet he was playing through the injury longer. Keep in mind, he has still been working through a significant left elbow injury at two different points in the season, limiting his tackling abilities.
Despite the injuries, Poyer still continues to play through everything and not miss any snaps. He will be out there Sunday, looking to extend the unbeaten streak for the team when he plays.
CB Cam Lewis (Right forearm)
On the injury report all season, Lewis continues to work through a chronic bone infection due to a fracture in college in 2017. He has been able to practice in full, but his requiring some type of treatment in the area is the reason he continues to be on the report.
QB Case Keenum (Illness)
Keenum was unable to practice Friday due to an illness, his first appearance on the injury report this season. Hopefully, this is no more than a head cold that will allow him to be on the sidelines to play in the second half if needed. There is concern that the illness could spread, but the team has done well to minimize exposure to others when illness does hit.
S Micah Hyde (Neck surgery)
Micah Hyde has returned to practice, roughly four months after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. This came after a Week 2 hit that appeared innocuous enough but later sent him to the hospital where he very likely had radicular symptoms down his arm or shoulder, signifying a herniated disc.
He very likely underwent an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion back in late September. He was originally given a 6-to-9-month timeline, but he appeared to have shown enough bone fusion to the plate in his neck along with a normal exam to allow for a return to football. This is a really aggressive timeframe for this surgery, but not unheard of. In my article from Monday, I did detail the criteria needed to return to sport and other research that supported a quicker return.
While he will not play this week, this should have opened the door for him to play the following week in the divisional round. However, Sean McDermott threw water on that budding possibility on Friday when he said he would not play next week either. This allows him to extend his full practice window before the team has to make a decision.
Even when he does return, I do not believe the plan is to have him play the entire game due to conditioning and his neck, but it would not shock me if he saw the majority of plays due to how the game flows.
The biggest concern I have right now is if he has any symptoms when he initiates contact. There is a concern for hardware failure, but the bone has appeared to fuse enough that this is a risk they are willing to take. This is an excellent development, but certainly an exception, not the norm.
WR Jamison Crowder (Left fibular fracture)
Crowder’s 21-day practice window opened up on Wednesday after originally suffering a left fibular fracture in the Week 4 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Fortunately, the break was a clean one with minimal ligament damage according to reporting from Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic.
While he will not play this week, this gives the Bills a chance to get him back into the offense and ramp him up in the event he is needed. Crowder is still very likely not 100 percent but healed enough that he could be used occasionally. I would not expect him to see all the snaps in the slot when he does return, but he’s an extra body and has shown to be versatile. I would also expect that he has more routes run to his right to prevent having to cut and pivot off the left leg which could limit his route tree.
I expect he only gets called up in the event of an injury where they can make a roster move next week. He could come back to the active roster if he reaches the end of his window, but he appears to be more of a wait-and-see approach.
MIAMI DOLPHINS INJURY REPORT
RB Raheem Mostert (Right thumb fracture)
Mostert suffered a thumb fracture sometime in the third quarter of last week’s game against the Jets. It wasn’t clear exactly when the injury occurred, but there was video of him looking at his thumb and moving it as though he was testing it out.
He later was found to have suffered a broken thumb, requiring surgery to place a pin in the bone. This helps approximate the fracture to allow for healing.
Unfortunately, he was ruled out already on Friday. Had he tried playing, he would have required a club on his hand, preventing him from holding or catching the ball. He could cradle the ball with his left hand, but would still be limited with blocking on the right side.
If they needed only a blocking back, he could have played. But they have Alec Ingold already doing that with a similar injury.
QB Tua Tagovailoa (Concussion)
Early on Wednesday, Tagovailoa was ruled out due to his second confirmed and likely third concussion of the season.
For his long-term health, this is the smart play as he requires rehab and rest to allow his brain to fully heal. The Dolphins may be seeing this playoff berth as a stepping stone to greater things but if they tried pushing all their chips in this year, trying to get Tua to play, that could set the franchise back.
OL Liam Eichenburg (Hand)
Eichenberg is doubtful heading into this game, officially designated as a hand injury. He was reported to have an arm injury in Week 18, but the specifics of the injury are not known. Doubtful players rarely play and even though this is the playoffs, I would expect that he would be unable to block effectively, leaving him as a liability in the middle of the line.
Update: he has been ruled out.
OT Terron Armstead (Right toe/left pectoral/knee/hip)
Still working through what appears to be a right toe injury, I suspect a plantar plate tear, a left pectoral strain along with knee and hip injuries, Armstead has missed the last two games. He has been plagued by injuries all season, including his toe dating back to Week 1.
Despite all the injuries, he has still been playing at a Pro Bowl level, but everything appears to have caught up to him after a long season. The injuries in themselves are not surprising as he has had many ailments over his career, but unfortunate that a key free agent is not able to produce when needed most.
In order to stay healthy this season, Armstead had a physical therapist living in his home with him to help him receive extra treatment in order to be ready for Sundays. It appeared to have worked as he was able to play most of the games this year.
I do expect him to play Sunday and still be somewhat effective, but he is beatable.
LB Bradley Chubb (Right hand/ankle)
Questionable for the game, Chubb is working through a right-hand injury that appears to be a fracture. He has been playing with a club but has not been getting his usual number of snaps since the injury.
Chubb has come out and stated he expects to play, but unable to grab and effectively move offensive lineman limits his ability to provide pressure. He won’t be totally ineffective, but this injury along with the ankle may limit his impact.
OT Kendall Lamm (Ankle)
As soon as Lamm got signed to the active roster on New Year’s Eve, Lamm suffered an ankle injury in his first game against the Patriots. He was unable to play last week and may be forced into service this week due to the multitude of injuries. The exact specifics are not known, but this signing is right up there with the Eric Fisher signing that did not pan out.
OT Brandon Shell (Knee/ankle)
Shell went down midway through the fourth quarter last week after he suffered what appeared to be a left high-ankle and MCL knee sprain. This was the result of the pocket collapsing and several bodies falling into his left leg, causing the injury. Even though he plays right tackle with the affected foot inside, he would still struggle greatly, leaving him a liability.
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Knee/right fifth digit)
Bridgewater has been battling his knee injury since injuring it in practice in Week 10. As for his finger, he dislocated his pinky against the Patriots which has prevented him from effectively gripping a football.
Right now, he is in line to be backup despite the injuries, but it should not surprise anyone if he is ruled out Saturday with a practice squad call-up of Mike Glennon completed.
FB Alec Ingold (Right thumb)
Ingold continues to work through a right thumb fracture that required surgery following the Packers game in Week 16. He has been playing with a club and has been primarily blocking the past two games, seeing the lowest snap counts of his season.
Despite the questionable designation, I fully expect him to play and still be effective as a blocker.
WR Cedrick Wilson Jr. (Hip/groin)
Wilson was doubtful heading into Week 18 with a hip injury, ultimately not playing. He added a groin injury this week and was limited before getting a full practice on Friday. He is still questionable, but even with the lack of depth and full practice Friday, I don’t expect he suits up.
LB Jaelan Phillips (Toe/wrist)
Phillips has been battling a toe injury since Week 16, quite possibly a turf toe. He has been able to play through the injury and recently picked up a wrist injury this last week.
It’s not clear which side is injured or how he injured it, but it’s worth mentioning that he entered the NFL with a surgically repaired wrist, specifically a proximal carpectomy from a moped accident while at UCLA. Hopefully, this is just a minor wrist sprain for the young defensive stud following a long season.
WR Jaylen Waddle (Ankle)
Waddle injured what appeared to be his left ankle while trying to plant on the leg as he was being spun down late in the fourth quarter.
At worst, it appeared to be a lateral low ankle sprain, but he was able to practice in full on Friday, avoiding a designation.
RB Jeff Wilson (Illness)
Wilson was limited Wednesday with an illness before returning to practice in full Thursday and Friday. He will need all the energy he can get knowing he is the lead back heading into this game with the absence of Raheem Mostert.
CB Kader Kohou (Right thumb)
Kohou has been playing through a right thumb sprain since Week 11, wearing a brace on the area as he’s played through the injury.
OT Greg Little (Achilles)
Little has worked through several injuries this season with his Achilles injury popping up earlier in the season in Week 7. He does not have a designation and appears to be one of the few “healthy” tackles left on the team.
QB Skylar Thompson (Ankle)
The presumed starter for the Dolphins Sunday, he was banged up a bit in the second half during the win over the Jets, able to finish the game. He was able to practice in full all week and does not have a designation.
BUFFALO BILLS PROJECTED INACTIVES
DT Jordan Phillips
WR Isaiah McKenzie
LB Baylon Spector
TE Tommy Sweeney
OL Ike Boettger
CB Christian Benford
S Jared Mayden
Call-ups: WR John Brown, DT Brandin Bryant
MIAMI DOLPHINS PROJECTED INACTIVES
QB Tua Tagovailoa
OT Liam Eichenberg
RB Raheem Mostert
OT Brandon Shell
QB Teddy Bridgewater
OT Kendall Lamm
WR Cedrick Wilson
Call-ups: QB Mike Glennon, T James Empey
Banged Up Bills Best Bet
Record: 7-5 +2.00 units
Double-digit favorites, currently at -13.5 heading into Sunday’s game. It’s not always easy to go play a team three times, even with the opponent being so beaten down by injuries.
There is still enough talent that the Dolphins could win or keep it much closer than the line says. I always get wary about double-digit spreads, things can happen. In a game like this, I’m taking the points, let the offenses make you money. This makes my betting pick 1 unit on the Over 43.5 (-110) at BetMGM.
I recall being worried about the Bills’ chances in the playoffs last year against the Patriots.
Then they had the perfect game in an absolute romp over New England at home.
Sometimes the thought of the opponent is the bigger hurdle than playing the actual game. I don’t think the Bills will go back to back on something like that though with a total beatdown. I don’t think they need to boat race anyone, just get the W and don’t add anyone to the injury report.
This Dolphins team certainly can still hang with anyone and should not be taken lightly. The Bills know what they need to do and execute, leaving no question as to what they are. Turnovers and mistakes can still shape this outcome, but the Dolphins’ injury woes may be too much to overcome in this one.
Get in, get the W, avoid injuries, and move on to next week. Leave no doubt as to what other teams will expect to see in the playoffs.
Top Photo Credit: WatchStadium.com