Hot off two big wins, the Buffalo Bills head out west to face the Los Angeles Chargers in a Week 16 tilt. What was once perceived as a top late-season matchup has turned into a game having vastly different meanings for both teams. The Bills need this win to continue their march toward securing a post-season birth and an outside shot at the division. The Chargers, amid a lost season, saw their starting quarterback go down with a broken finger and the team suffered from overall inconsistent performances. This led to the head coach and general manager getting fired and wanting to play spoiler for their new interim head coach.
The Bills have everything to play for and the Chargers can spoil the fun. Despite the mismatch, this should still be an exciting game despite several players from both teams expected to miss.
Read below for the full injury details for each team, projected inactives, and final thoughts.
Buffalo Bills Injury Report
S Micah Hyde (Neck Stinger)
After missing last week’s game due to his third stinger in six weeks, Hyde is still not ready to play, having already been ruled out on Thursday. At this point in the season, it is all about self-preservation and making sure he does not suffer yet another aggravation to the area so that he can be ready for Week 18, the playoffs, whenever he is called upon.
The nerve in the shoulder area is likely still inflamed and can easily be jarred again with the wrong hit. He is likely safe to play, but these stingers continue to make it difficult to play through pain. This is the smart move to get through the remainder of the season.
DE AJ Epenesa (Left Ribs)
Epenesa missed last week due to a rib injury suffered early in the Kansas City Chiefs game when he secured a Patrick Mahomes interception and then got flattened by an offensive lineman. He did attempt to return before exiting again and was later deemed week-to-week. This strongly suggested that he has a rib cartilage injury which is slower to heal. Despite the questionable designation, I do not anticipate that Epenesa will play again this week.
On Thursday, Sean McDermott announced that he was unlikely to play which is the smart move looking long-term for the playoffs. Despite the questionable designation, I do not expect him to play.
Make sure to check out the video from Jon Scott of Spectrum News where Epenesa discusses the injury.
RB Ty Johnson (Right Shoulder)
Johnson is working through what appeared to be a right AC joint sprain but did return quickly to the game Sunday to continue to play. If this is indeed an AC joint sprain, he can brace or tape up the area and inject it to manage the pain as he continues to be a valuable asset to the running game. He was limited all week and it may come down to how he feels. I expect that he at least tries to give it a go.
QB Josh Allen (Right Shoulder)
Dating back to Week 6, Allen suffered an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder and has been on the injury report though has not been limited lately.
LS Reid Ferguson (Right Thumb)
Ferguson is always a surprise addition to the injury report every time he’s on, which is not often. He was on the report earlier this season for a wrist injury but played and this right thumb injury appears to have the same outcome. It’s not clear when he suffered the injury, but he did have several times where the thumb could have been hit or kicked early in the game. The snaps did not appear to suffer and Ferguson will suit up on Saturday.
DE Leonard Floyd (Wrist/Left Ribs)
Floyd has been working through a wrist injury originally suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12. He added a rib contusion to his injury list after getting blasted from the side early in the second quarter of Sunday’s win. He had to briefly leave the game but was able to return. An injection and flank jacket should help him continue his dominant season in Week 16.
TE Dalton Kincaid (Right Shoulder)
Kincaid is still working through his right AC joint sprain suffered in the waning moments of the win over Kansas City but has not missed any time due to the injury. He has been seen in a red non-contact jersey which is standard for guys who want to avoid aggravating their injuries. An injection and tape on the area get him ready for each game.
TE Dawson Knox (Right Wrist)
Knox continues his rehab from his right wrist surgery that caused him to miss five games. He continues to practice in full and has no designation heading into the game.
P Sam Martin (Right Knee)
Martin was on the injury report this week due to a right knee injury (kicking leg) as a result of a collision late in the first quarter on Sunday. This resulted in a roughing of the punter penalty that kept the Bills offense moving along while Martin limped off. He was cleared to return and continued punting and holding duties. Fortunately, he does not have a game-day designation heading into the game.
DT Jordan Phillips (Right Wrist)
On Sunday, Phillips suffered a right wrist injury sacking Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott late in the third quarter. On Monday, it was announced that he underwent surgery on his right wrist, and on Tuesday, it was revealed that he suffered a wrist dislocation and was originally week-to-week.
On Thursday, Sean McDermott stated that Phillips would be placed on injured reserve. He will be required to miss the next four games which means the earliest he can return is the divisional playoff game should they make it that far.
His placement on injured reserve is more of a roster management issue than the severity of the injury. They need any healthy player possible to make their final playoff push and if they have an able-bodied player over one that won’t play for a few weeks, it’s a no-brainer. Sean McDermott did note that he didn’t know whether Phillips would be able to return this season.
Despite the IR designation, I detailed the injury and a possible return timeline in the article linked below.
DT DaQuan Jones (Right Pectoral)
On Monday, the team announced that Jones would open up his 21-day window to begin practicing after his Week 5 pectoral tear that required surgery.
On Wednesday, he began getting some live reps in and looked decent, though hitting a blocking sled and going through several drills doesn’t tell us much. The medical staff has shown the ability to rehab guys back from this injury and play well upon return as we saw with Jon Feliciano in 2020. Feliciano returned at the 12-week mark and I expect Jones to do the same which will place him in line to play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 18.
Despite him being listed as questionable, don’t read too much into that designation as they have done that for all the players in their practice windows this season. They have had some type of designation but he hasn’t had enough time to get back up to speed to play on Saturday. He needs more time to practice.
To read more about his injury, check it out below.
CB Kaiir Elam (Right Ankle)
Elam continues to ramp back up to playing following his right ankle deltoid ligament tear suffered back against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason. He has been practicing in full and waits for the opportunity to get activated back to the roster should there be an injury or roster move. His window opened on December 6 and the team needs to decide by early next week or he reverts to injured reserve. He could get activated with Jordan Phillips to IR which plays a part in why he is questionable.
WR Justin Shorter (Hamstring)
Shorter opened up his 21-day practice window last week as he began practicing following his hamstring injury suffered in the preseason. This has been more of a redshirt year for Shorter and he will only be activated to the roster if there is a need for his services. Otherwise, he will revert to injured reserve. He has been ruled out for Saturday.
Los Angeles Chargers Injury Report
WR Keenan Allen (Heel)
Allen has been battling injuries all season including a shoulder and quad injury, not missing any games. However, the latest injury, a heel issue, kept him out of the short week in the awful loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The exact specifics of the injury are not clear but this could be a contusion, plantar fasciitis, nerve pain, or medial or lateral ankle tendons causing pain in the heel area. Considering the role the heel plays in running and jumping acting as the anchor point to the forefoot when pushing off of landing, pain could significantly limit essentially every wide receiver function.
Despite two full weeks to rehab, Allen was unable to practice all week, ruling him out for Saturday.
CB Deane Leonard (Ankle/Heel)
Leonard has missed the last two games due to an ankle/heel originally suffered in Week 13. This comes after missing three games earlier this season due to a hamstring strain. It’s not clear the exact specifics of his ankle injury as he played every snap against the Patriots.
He will likely miss this game still working through his injury after not practicing all week.
DT Nick Williams (Shoulder)
Williams missed last week’s game due to a shoulder injury after getting in limited practices all week. Despite two weeks off to rest, he is still not assured that he will play. Should he play, his presence will be welcome in the middle as they try to slow down Buffalo’s running attack.
CB Essang Bassey (Concussion)
Bassey suffered a concussion just before halftime and was forced to leave the game against the Raiders in Week 15. Due to the several extra days coming off a Thursday game, Bassey was able to get a limited practice in on Tuesday and was limited all week except for Thursday, officially questionable for Saturday. He will be required to be cleared by the independent neurologist to play on Saturday. Considering he was full, he could get cleared.
TE Nick Vannett (Back)
Vannett was a late addition to the injury report Thursday with a back designation and is officially questionable for Saturday. It’s not clear how significant the back injury is for Vannett.
G Zion Johnson (Ankle)
After going down in the first quarter of the Week 15 game with what looked like a knee injury, Johnson returned to practice Tuesday with an ankle designation practicing in full. He has no designation and will play on Saturday.
LB Amen Onbongbeniga (Hamstring)
Onbongbeniga missed the last two games due to a hamstring strain suffered in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos. He appears set to return this week with most of his contributions being solely on special teams.
OT Trey Pipkins (Wrist)
Pipkins has been working through a wrist injury that dates back to Week 12. The exact specifics of the injury are not clear but he has not missed a snap since suffering the injury which makes this injury a relative non-factor.
LB Tanner Muse (Knee)
Muse’s practice window opened up on Tuesday as he continues to work back from a knee injury against the Green Bay Packers that sent him to injured reserve. He has been primarily a special teams contributor this season. He will be eligible to play once he is activated on the roster. He is officially doubtful but I do not expect he is activated.
QB Justin Herbert (Right Index Finger)
Herbert was lost for the season in Week 14 when he suffered a right index finger fracture against the Denver Broncos. He underwent surgery to repair the fracture and considering how poorly the Chargers season has been, there is no incentive for Herbert to return.
DE Joey Bosa (Right Foot Sprain)
Bosa suffered a right foot sprain on the fourth snap of the game in Week 11 against the Green Bay Packers. He is officially eligible to return but the team has not opened his practice window yet. He was observed off to the side this week and they even opened his rehab window, but he would not be available to play Saturday.
Buffalo Bills Projected Inactives
DE AJ Epenesa
OT Alec Anderson
S Micah Hyde
OL Germain Ifedi
Los Angeles Chargers Projected Inactives
WR Keenan Allen
DB Deane Leonard
S JT Woods
TE Nick Vannett
DT Nick Williams
The Bills need to take care of business once again this week. They will be without several key contributors to the defense but they have enough solid depth necessary to overcome their absence. Whether it’s a blowout or a one-point win, a win is a win that moves the Bills one step closer to securing a playoff spot.
Let’s hope for a win and no injuries as the Bills march toward the end of the season.
Top Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes