The Buffalo Bills host the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 15 matchup that with the right circumstances, could be a potential Super Bowl preview! With the Cowboys coming off a convincing victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and the Bills defeating the Kansas City Chiefs, both teams are firing on all cylinders ready for Sunday.
Both teams have injuries to key defenders that will not only affect their depth but also how the defense performs as a whole. With it being this late in the season, few players are truly at 100 percent which means one mistake could lead to the other team exploiting it for the win.
Below are the injury reports for each team, projected inactives, and final observations.
Buffalo Bills Injury Report
DE AJ Epenesa (Left Ribs)
Epenesa sat out all week due to a left-sided rib injury that saw him leave the game early in the first quarter. He suffered his first rib injury on his interception of Patrick Mahomes where he had an offensive lineman fall on him.
The second instance was his final play where he was twisted down, appearing to aggravate his already damaged trunk.
Considering he is week to week, he highly likely has a rib cartilage injury lower on the left side as that is where he grabbed. The issue is that the cartilage cannot be numbed up like a rib can which makes managing the issue more difficult. It is a pain issue, but an issue that can’t be controlled like other issues.
He will be out this game, a great chance that he will miss next week and if pain is still limiting him, potentially a third game.
S Micah Hyde (Neck Stinger)
Hyde was unable to practice all week following his third stinger of the season. Considering he was coming off his cervical fusion last year, this is far more of a concern than with most other players.
This is far more of a smart play to make sure he is ready for the final stretch. While he will be a big loss in the secondary, it’s not worth further irritating the already injured nerves. His most recent hit saw him extend back and rotate left violently, stressing the brachial plexus.
I’ll reiterate this, his fusion site appears to be ok. If it wasn’t, he’d be shut down. There is a chance that another level is affected due to a herniated disc or stenosis, but most of the hits have been to his shoulder previously. It still seems more realistic that he has more nerve irritation down into the trapezius and shoulder.
The only way to figure out how to correct it further is if there is inflammation, which means he needs to reduce hits to the area, or if there is nerve entrapment which is causing symptoms when he gets hit due to lack of available motion.
He will likely be able to play next week but the team has to manage his workload to get through the rest of the season.
QB Josh Allen (Right Shoulder)
Allen continues to require regular treatment on his right AC joint suffered in Week 6. He has not missed any games due to the injury.
DE Leonard Floyd (Wrist)
Floyd is working through a wrist injury that requires treatment but has not forced him to miss any snaps. This injury first appeared after the bye, suggesting he injured the wrist against the Philadelphia Eagles.
CB Taron Johnson (Ankle)
Johnson was a new addition to the injury report with an ankle designation following the win over Kansas City. I have not found the exact instance where he suffered the injury, but there were several times when he appeared to get injured or come up slowly.
By the looks of it, he was moving fairly well at practice and just needed more time off it to rest after a physical game.
TE Dalton Kincaid (Thumb/Shoulder)
Kincaid has been working through a thumb injury the last two weeks dating back to the Eagles game. He added a right shoulder injury when he briefly had to leave the game following a fall to the ground right before the two-minute warning in the second half.
He was limited all week due to the shoulder injury in a non-contact jersey to avoid an aggravation to the healing joint. With some tape and an injection, he will be able to play and may be limited only from a pain perspective.
TE Dawson Knox (Right Wrist)
Despite Knox getting cleared to return to play last week following his wrist surgery, he still requires regular rehab to ensure there are no setbacks. I expect his usage to slowly climb in the coming weeks as he gets stronger and back into game shape.
CB Kaiir Elam (Right Ankle)
Details regarding Elam’s injury were finally disclosed on Wednesday due to Nick Sabato’s reporting as seen below.
He injured the deltoid ligament on the inside portion of his right ankle due to getting stepped on during the Steelers preseason game. Looking back, he was never really limited in practice the following week and even played in the final preseason game.
He went on to state that he could have rehabbed or undergone surgery to repair the area. A deltoid ligament repair would have had a timeline of upwards of three months which could have been compressed significantly for the NFL athlete. I believe Elam made the right decision to avoid surgery.
However, if the injury was so bad that it required surgery, I wonder how he was able to even play in the first place. I believe the injury was real, I believe it impacted his ability to play, but I also believe the injury is an excuse for his subpar play and allowed the team to move him to IR. Despite his questionable designation, he will return to the roster once there is a spot available.
WR Justin Shorter (Hamstring)
Shorter’s practice window opened up on Wednesday, his first action since suffering a hamstring strain in the preseason. His hamstring strain is fully healed by this point and his window is likely to determine how he can get acclimated in the offense.
He will only be brought up to the active roster in the event of an injury, but the Bills are not forced to activate him if they don’t need him. They can simply place him back on injured reserve without wasting a roster spot. Considering the season is nearly over, it’s good to get him up to speed if he is needed.
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report
DT Johnathan Hankins (Knee/High Ankle)
Hankins suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Week 14 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. These usually carry a several-game missed designation. Considering he is also listed with a knee, he potentially suffered an MCL sprain which has a similar mechanism to a high-ankle, it just depends on which joint is affected more by injury.
S Malik Hooker (Right Ankle)
Hooker was unable to practice Wednesday and Thursday due to a right ankle injury sustained late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Eagles. This injury came as a result of a tush push with 3:29 left where Hooker got caught under the pile of bodies as the Eagles converted. He did not immediately show any discomfort but began limping the next several plays. Once the defense came back on the next series, he sported a heavy tape job on his right ankle as he tried to gut out the remainder of the game.
I bet that he tries to play but will be limited as the game progresses.
WR Brandin Cooks (Illness)
CB Stephon Gilmore (Illness)
WR Jalen Tolbert (Illness)
All appeared on the injury report with an illness that appears to be going around the locker room, unable to practice on Thursday. I have found that most players who have an illness ultimately suit up on Sunday.
RB Rico Dowdle (Ankle)
Dowdle has been managing an ankle injury dating back to before Week 11 when he aggravated the ankle in a practice on Saturday before the game. He was questionable then but has not missed any time since then.
LB Micah Parsons (Illness)
Parsons was a late addition to the injury report last week with an illness but was able to play in Sunday’s win over the Eagles. While he may still be dealing with some symptoms, there should not be any drop-off in play.
DE Villami Fehoko (Knee)
Fehoko is still within his 21-day practice window that just opened this week after suffering a knee injury prior to Week 11. He has not appeared in a regular season game this year, a healthy scratch every game prior. After spending four games on IR, the team is likely not in a rush to get him back out on the field.
OT Matt Waletzko (Shoulder)
Waletzko was designated to return last week and is in his practice window after being placed on IR after roster cutdowns. He has had a history of shoulder issues including multiple left shoulder subluxations last year. It doesn’t appear as though he will play just yet, a corresponding roster move will have to take place for him to play on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills Projected Inactives
S Micah Hyde
DE AJ Epenesa
OL Alec Anderson
OL Germain Ifedi
DT Poona Ford
Dallas Cowboys Projected Inactives
DT Johnathan Hankins
RB Deuce Vaughn
OL Asim Richards
WR Jalen Brooks
CB Eric Scott
CB Noah Igbinoghene
Call up: DT Carl Davis
The is the one game that the Bills can drop and not be harmed in the playoff standings much as this is an NFC team. However, the more wins they stack together, the greater the likelihood that they will assume themselves a playoff spot and even the division under certain circumstances.
In addition, if the Bills win, this will be another key win over one of the NFL’s best teams which will empower the Bills even further. This should be an incredibly high-scoring game and one with lots of excitement for an exciting finish. All we can hope for is a Bills win to inch them closer to the playoffs and enter as one of the hottest teams in the AFC as they march towards a championship
Top Photo Credit: NBC Sports