After being virtually left for dead following a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12, the Buffalo Bills sat at 6-6 and in 11th place in the AFC. Following the bye, the Bills hunkered down into playoff mode and reeled off five consecutive wins to not only get back into the playoff race but to win the AFC East and secure the number two seed.
This was a remarkable turnaround for a team that had Super Bowl aspirations following a disappointing exit last season. The team has battled injuries all year with the loss of several defensive starters but they have adapted and overcome thus far.
The Bills face a plucky Steelers team that needed some help to get into the postseason but is incredibly well-coached by Mike Tomlin. This team knows how to rise to play competitive football which means they cannot be overlooked heading into Sunday.
Read the full injury report for each team along with projected inactives and final observations.
Buffalo Bills Injury Report
WR Gabe Davis (Left PCL Sprain)
Davis is set to miss Sunday’s game due to a left PCL sprain suffered in the end zone late in the first quarter. This was the result of him tripping over his own feet and landing with his knee bent. Hitting the ground with the knee bent led to an anterior force pushing the tibia posterior and spraining the PCL.
This ligament prevents the tibia from shifting backward, the opposite of what the ACL does. Davis knew that his knee felt funny when he hit but he knew it was a problem when he attempted to pivot off the knee and it likely gave him a hyperextension feeling.
If this is a true Grade 1 sprain, he should only miss one game. If this is closer to a Grade 2, he could be looking at several weeks. The way the wording was described, it was not major which suggests a Grade 1.
He will need to work on knee stabilization activities including hamstring and quad strengthening to allow him to pivot and jump. This injury will not require surgery in the offseason, but, unfortunately, he will miss the playoff opener.
S Taylor Rapp (Left Calf)
After Rapp secured the game-winning interception, he began hopping around before going back down to the turf for medical attention. At the time, it appeared he had the wind knocked out of him when he landed on the ball which is unfortunately routine.
On Wednesday, he appeared on the injury report with a calf designation which forced a closer look. Right before Rapp caught the ball, he launched himself forward pushing off the left foot. With his foot in dorsiflexion and pushing forward, this likely caused a calf strain.
Considering the demands of the safety position and the possible poor footing due to the weather, this could exacerbate the injury should he play through it. Looking at the depth the team has available including Damar Hamlin, Rapp should rest to be ready for the divisional round.
LB Tyrel Dodson (Left Shoulder)
Dodson exited the game on Sunday with a left shoulder injury suffered in the second quarter. This was the result of a late hit that caused him to somersault over Greg Rousseau and De’Von Achane. His left shoulder clipped Achane but Dodson stayed in.
He was able to finish the series after getting the shoulder jarred several more times. The initial concern was for an AC joint sprain, but looking at this more and more, AC joint sprains usually are the result of a lateral compressive force to the shoulder, damaging the ligaments of the acromioclavicular joint. The direct blow could have caused labrum and rotator cuff damage. This would be the same injury that Jordan Phillips suffered last season.
If Dodson does attempt to play through the injury, he would have instability in the area and weakness due to either injury. He will have to wear a brace and limit the use of his shoulder in tackling and blocking. He will essentially be playing with one shoulder and could see his day end early with another awkward hit.
He would be the best bet to play but I’m not confident in his abilities coming off the injury this quickly. The team signed AJ Klein for a reason this week which is why I believe he will sit.
CB Rasul Douglas (Left Knee)
Douglas may have been the biggest injury out of the Dolphins game due to his contributions to the secondary since his trade from Green Bay.
By video, Micah Hyde’s leg whipped Douglas’s leg at the top of the knee as seen in the video below. This leg whip would cause a painful contusion at the very least. Regrettably, Douglas was unable to practice all week which suggests that the contusion is significant enough to prevent him from playing effectively.
However, looking at the video again and watching the TJ Watt injury, there is potential for an MCL sprain if the knee was placed into the valgus position with the force hitting from the front and outside. The knee does not appear to go into hyperextension thankfully which can cause other issues.
The film isn’t great at showing us how the knee is angled, but if that is the case of an MCL sprain, Douglas is looking at missing this game and potentially more.
In addition, here is a list of all the players dating back to 2017 who did not practice during the week and were ruled Questionable/Doubtful
Week 5- LB Tremaine Edmunds (Hamstring) Questionable- OUT
Week 12- DE AJ Epenesa (Left Ankle) Questionable- OUT
Week 8- OT Spencer Brown (Back) Doubtful- OUT
Week 15- WR Emmanuel Sanders (Right Knee) Doubtful- OUT
Week 18- Emmanuel Sanders (Right Knee) Questionable- OUT
Week 5- CB Tre’Davious White (Back) Questionable- OUT
Week 8- S Micah Hyde (Concussion) Questionable- OUT
Week 18 (Wild Card) DE Darryl Johnson (Knee) Questionable- OUT
Week 20 (AFC Championship) DT Vernon Butler (Quad) Questionable- PLAY
Week 5- S Micah Hyde (Groin) Questionable- OUT
Week 5- S Rafael Bush (Shoulder) Questionable- OUT
Week 9- QB Derek Anderson (Concussion) Questionable- OUT
Week 9- LB Tremaine Edmunds (Concussion) Questionable- OUT
Week 12- TE Charles Clay (Hamstring) Doubtful- OUT
Week 14- TE Jason Croom (Groin) Doubtful- OUT
Week 8- S Jordan Poyer (Knee) Questionable- OUT
Week 12- WR Kelvin Benjamin (Knee) Questionable- OUT
Week 18 (Wild Card) LB Matt Milano (Hamstring) Questionable- OUT
One out of 18 chances to play isn’t great odds. I don’t expect him to play.
His injury will be one to continue to watch moving forward but his lack of availability may become a problem should it extend into next week.
QB Josh Allen (Neck)
Allen continues to work through his neck injury suffered in Week 17 that caused a stinger in his left shoulder. This injury was the result of his first down run that clinched the win to move the Bills to 10-6. While the neck may be still sore, no concerns are moving forward as he enters the playoffs.
OT Dion Dawkins (Left Hand/Illness)
Dawkins tore open the webbing between his left middle and ring finger, requiring several stitches to close the area during the game. He required bandaging to the area to finish the game and was able to practice in full this week.
Other than making sure he has adequate protection in the area to ensure the wound does not open, there are no concerns for Dawkins’s ability to grip or block come Sunday.
He also missed practice on Thursday due to illness but was able to return in full on Friday and has no designation.
TE Dawson Knox (Illness)
Knox missed practice Thursday due to an illness but was able to return in full the following day.
RB Ty Johnson (Concussion)
Johnson got rocked on what should have been a penalized play at the goal line at the end of the second quarter. Dolphins LB Jerome Baker had a helmet-to-helmet collision with Johnson which produced symptoms to warrant a concussion check.
He was ruled out on Sunday but on Wednesday, he was able to get a limited practice all week before being cleared. What’s also notable is that he never got a full practice before being cleared. At the time, that was incredibly promising as most players who suffer a concussion miss the following week. This is Johnson’s second concussion and he was able to clear protocol in under a week last time in 2019.
He managed to do it again which means his availability will keep Latavius Murray inactive.
S Damar Hamlin (Right Shoulder)
Hamlin was able to practice in full all week after missing the last two games with a right shoulder injury suffered against the Chargers. By video, there was concern for a posterior labrum tear and he wore a harness to finish out the game.
Considering Micah Hyde has returned to play, Hamlin has been a “healthy” scratch as he has been most of the season. With Rapp’s calf injury, Hamlin could rehab his shoulder enough to tackle and block but more importantly, play safety on what is expected to be poor footing.
S Micah Hyde (Neck)
Hyde continues to manage his neck issues that caused him to miss Week 15 and 16 due to repeated stingers throughout the season. He has not had any instances of stingers since then but his risk to suffer another one is still elevated. He remains one of the best options to play in the secondary that could be challenged on Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers Injury Report
DE TJ Watt (Left Knee)
Watt has already been ruled out with a left knee MCL sprain but has still been rehabbing off to the side if the Steelers make it to the divisional round.
His knee injury came as the result of a collision with a teammate which forced his knee into hyperextension but also damaged the MCL. Had he tried to play, he would have not been able to generate any power off the left leg and move laterally to bend the edge. Tackling would have also been limited as he could not adjust his direction as quickly leading to missed tackles.
RB Najee Harris (Knee)
Harris originally injured his knee against the Arizona Cardinals back in Week 13 but has not missed any games. He has missed practice during the week as part of his maintenance but has since seen his snap counts normalize after decreasing to season lows in Weeks 15 and 16. He is taking more of the offensive load over the last two games and will be a dangerous threat out of the backfield should the Steelers want to lean on the run.
S Minkah Fitzpatrick (Knee)
Fitzpatrick had not played since suffering a Week 15 knee injury. This happened in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts when teammate Patrick Peterson landed on his knee. He missed the last three games but was able to return to practice in full on Wednesday indicating his return.
LB Elandon Roberts (Left Pectoral)
Roberts suffered a left pectoral strain early in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. He was forced to leave the game and was later seen wearing a sling.
He missed the following week against the Seattle Seahawks before returning to play against the Baltimore Ravens. He only collected one tackle playing in 39 percent of defensive snaps. I expect him to continue to be limited in tackling and shedding blockers due to the weakness in his left shoulder. He will be wearing a harness and will still manage to play through the injury.
G Issac Seumalo (Shoulder)
Seumalo has been working through a shoulder injury that dates back to Week 13 when he suffered the injury. He was questionable the following two weeks but has not missed an offensive snap during that time.
Buffalo Bills Projected Inactives
S Taylor Rapp
LB Tyrel Dodson
WR Gabe Davis
OL Alec Anderson
CB Rasul Douglas
DT Linval Jospeh
RB Latavius Murray
Call Up: LB AJ Klein, WR Andy Isabella
Pittsburgh Steelers Projected Inactives
DE TJ Watt
CB Darius Rush
OT Dylan Cook
QB Mitch Trubisky
LB Blake Martinez
The Bills need to go out and take care of business. They are expected to be without several depth players and starters which may become a factor should more injuries occur.
Buffalo appears to be the better team heading into this contest but Pittsburgh has the opportunity to stay in this game due to coaching.
If the Steelers can capitalize on the Bills’ mistakes, it could be a long afternoon. The Bills need to play within themselves and not let the elements or refereeing dictate the game. They need to secure the win and move onto the divisional round as they look to start a deep playoff run.
Top Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes