The Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots in a Week 17 matchup that with a win and some help, could secure the Bills their fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Despite the Patriots beating the Bills earlier this season in Week 7, the Bills are one of the hotter teams in the league and are favored by -14 but I fully expect the score to be closer than that being they are divisional rivals.
Both teams are coming in with lengthy injury reports but plenty of these injuries have been lingering for some time or managed well. There are several injuries of note below that are worth discussing, but the Bills are looking to get out of this game healthy while the Patriots are playing for pride and to play spoiler.
Get the full injury reports for both teams inside plus projected inactives and final thoughts below.
Buffalo Bills Injury Report
DE AJ Epenesa (Left Ribs)
Epenesa was limited all week after missing the last two weeks due to a left rib cartilage injury suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs. His availability will come down to how much pain he is still in and the risk for re-injury. If he does not play this weekend, he will be ready for Week 18.
S Damar Hamlin (Right Shoulder)
Hamlin suffered a shoulder injury midway through the second quarter when he was hit hard with his right arm partially abducted blocking on a punt. He was in clear discomfort grabbing at the shoulder as he walked off the field but was able to return with a shoulder harness later in the game.
By video, there is a strong suspicion of a right posterior labrum tear based on how the arm was hit with the arm in abduction, leading to a subluxation or even dislocation. The hit could have sheared the humeral head backward, tearing the back portion of the labrum. This is an injury that he can play through, but there may be resulting pain and weakness in the area, especially with blocking and tackling. The force pushing the arm backward could lead to further instability events, eventually requiring surgery. He could be an IR candidate if the Bills need to bring anyone else back later this season.
DT DaQuan Jones (Right Pectoral)
Jones was able to practice in full all week as he ramps up from his Week 5 pectoral tear that required surgery. He is three months out from surgery and could reasonably play this week as there is an open roster spot due to the release of OL Germain Ifedi.
When Jones does return, I expect them to limit his snap count and put him on during certain passing or rushing downs. He may struggle to block on the right side and tackle along with performing swim moves, but he can still be effective enough to contribute to the defensive line. Despite the questionable designation, I fully expect him to play.
LB Terrel Bernard (Right Ankle)
Bernard has been limited all week due to a right ankle injury suffered in the second quarter of Saturday’s win. By video, it looks as though he suffered a medial ankle sprain, and based on how he has been able to practice this week.
Bernard has played through multiple other injuries this year and with tape or a brace stabilizing the area, I expect Bernard to play and still be relatively effective, though he may be limited at times with his lateral mobility.
LS Reid Ferguson (Right Thumb)
Ferguson injured his right thumb against the Dallas Cowboys but was able to practice in full. He had to have the thumb taped up around the web space between the thumb and index finger but his snaps remain consistent and no concerns moving forward.
DE Leonard Floyd (Wrist/Left Ribs)
Floyd suffered bruised ribs as a result of getting blindsided during the Dallas Cowboys game. He briefly had to exit but was able to return and finish that game and play last week. This is more of a pain issue but he continues to play through the injury. As for the wrist, this has been present since suffering the injury against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12.
S Micah Hyde (Left Neck Stinger)
Hyde looks set to return after missing the last two games due to his left neck stinger issues. Since Week 9, he has had three stingers and these have caused him significant pain. I don’t believe that his fusion from last year is causing problems, but if he has another disc herniation at another level, stenosis, or irritation in the brachial plexus down into the shoulder, this could explain why he continues to have recurrent symptoms when he gets hit.
At this point, he is trying to get through the year and avoid re-injury. Hopefully two weeks off allowed him to reduce the inflammation enough to get through the game without suffering yet another stinger.
RB Ty Johnson (Right Shoulder)
Johnson remained in a red non-contact jersey again this week after missing last week’s game due to a right AC joint sprain. This was despite him returning in Week 15 and finishing out the game. The team called up Leonard Fournette last week to take his place but Johnson appears ready to go this week.
DB Cam Lewis (Left Thumb)
Lewis injured his left thumb while trying to recover the Deonte Harty fumble late in the first quarter on Sunday. Based on how he fell with his hand hitting, it’s possible he suffered some type of thumb sprain.
It would not surprise me to see him wearing some type of thumb spica or have the wrist taped to support the thumb. A general brace could be in play as well, but I do expect him to play.
LB Dorian Williams (Knee)
Williams was able to practice in full this week despite a knee designation. It’s not clear when he suffered the knee injury, but he did deal with a knee injury in October that appeared to hyperextend his knee which saw him on the injury report later in the season. He continues to be a main special teams contributor and occasional participant on defense.
WR Justin Shorter (Hamstring)
Shorter’s 21-day practice window is closing after this game as he continues to return from his preseason hamstring injury. His injury has been more of a redshirt season for him than indicating the severity of the hamstring injury. His availability comes down to whether there is a spot for him on the roster.
New England Patriots Injury Report
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Ankle)
Smith-Schuster has been working through an ankle injury that dates back to Week 13 that has seen him miss the last two games. The exact mechanism of injury is unknown, but he had a productive game in Week 14, securing four receptions for 90 yards, but potentially re-injuring his ankle that game.
S Jabrill Peppers (Hamstring)
Peppers is slated to miss his second consecutive game following a hamstring injury suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. He played in 91 percent of snaps that game but then was ruled out for Week 16 and was unable to practice all week leading up to Sunday. He does have a history of hamstring issues dating back several years and he battled a hamstring several times during the 2022 season. The management of the injury may be more precautionary since there is a history and little to play for Sunday.
DL Christian Barmore (Knee)
Barmore has been on and off the injury report this year due to knee and shoulder issues. His knee issues date back to 2021 and he was a weekly mainstay on the injury report for the knee since Week 3. The past few weeks have had him dealing with a shoulder injury, but this knee issue is chronic at this point and hasn’t prevented him from suiting up.
DB Myles Bryant (Chest)
Bryant was a new addition to the injury report with a chest injury with no additional information available at this time. Chest injuries can usually also be known as pectoral injuries which may explain what this is. If he does play, he may have trouble blocking and tackling, but considering the depth issues on the team, he may be pressed into service.
TE Hunter Henry (Left Knee)
Henry missed last week’s game due to a left knee sprain suffered against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. You can see the hit below and how that placed stress through the medial knee when he was hit on the outside portion of the leg. He may truly be 50/50 on whether he can suit up this Sunday. He probably isn’t healthy enough to play but may want to because he is a competitor. If he does play, I expect him to be limited in his routes and may be limited to blocking duties.
LB Anfernee Jennings (Illness/Knee)
Jennings was limited Wednesday due to an illness before his designation changed to a knee on Thursday. The knee injury is a new issue without additional information.
CB Jonathan Jones (Knee)
Jones has been battling a knee injury all year, originally suffering the knee injury in Week 7 against the Buffalo Bills. He has not missed any games due to the injury but has been questionable for five out of the last eight games. I do expect him to play considering the depth issues in the secondary.
WR Matthew Slater (Hamstring)
Slater missed the first game in six years last week due to his hamstring strain originally suffered in Week 15. He has been limited all week as he recovers and barring a setback, I would expect that he plays this weekend.
CB Shaun Wade (Hip)
Wade picked up a hip injury following the Week 16 win and has been limited all week. He has been a bottom-of-the-roster player which means that he is only pressed into service if starters are ruled out.
S Kyle Dugger (Illness)
Dugger was unable to practice on Friday due to an illness and is officially questionable.
OT Tyrone Wheatley (Knee)
After suffering a knee injury in Week 6, Wheatley spent time on injured reserve as he rehabbed through the injury. He has been practicing after opening his 21-day window on December 13 and the team has to decide on whether to activate him or not soon.
OT Trent Brown (Illness/Right Ankle/Hand)
Brown has been a mainstay on the injury report for the second half of the season due to a variety of injuries. The ankle injury is from the Week 7 win over the Buffalo Bills, a high-ankle sprain that has continued to linger.
The hand injury popped up after the Week 13 loss to the Chargers which has also not forced him to miss any time. As for the illness, he has been off and on the injury report for this with an illness that forced him to miss Week 15. I do expect him to return to the lineup and play Sunday.
S Jalen Mills (Concussion)
Mills suffered a concussion in the Week 16 win over the Denver Broncos and despite not practicing all week until Friday, passed concussion protocol and will play Sunday.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (Knee)
Bentley has been on and off the injury report for the last few weeks due to the knee injury he is currently dealing with. He showed up on the injury report with a knee designation the Friday before Week 15 and played but was off the injury report last week. He returned this week and was limited all week but looks to suit up on Sunday. He was dealing with a hamstring strain earlier this season that forced him out of the Week 10 contest but otherwise has been a mainstay on the defense.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson (Right High-Ankle Sprain)
Stevenson was placed on injured reserve earlier this week after missing the last three games due to the high-ankle sprain suffered against the Chargers. This is more of a roster management move to free up a spot rather than indicating the severity of the injury. He needs rest and rehab to be ready for 2024.
Buffalo Bills Projected Inactives
S Damar Hamlin
OL Alec Anderson
CB Kaiir Elam
DE Kingsley Johnathan
DT Poona Ford
New England Patriots Projected Inactives
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
TE Hunter Henry
S Jabrill Peppers
DB Shaun Wade
DE Sam Roberts
The Buffalo Bills need to secure this win plus get help from several other teams to secure a playoff spot this week. They can still make the playoffs by winning next week, but locking up a guaranteed playoff spot this week will only help the health of the team for next week.
This will still be a challenging game due to the frequency that which these two teams play each other. The Bills know what they need to do and that is play their game to get the win. It’d be ideal to win by three scores, but to win by a field goal to get a W is fine too. We need to see DaQuan Jones get his first reps since Week 5, Micah Hyde not aggravate his stinger, and others not having setbacks to set things up for the game next week against Miami.
Top Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus / Associated Press