Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs Divisional Round Injury Preview

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs Divisional Round Injury Preview
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 31: Terrel Bernard #43 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates during the game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Buffalo, New York. The Bills beat the Patriots 27-21. (Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)

The moment that we have all been waiting for is here. The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. The opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs. The place is Highmark Stadium. After having the Chiefs bounce the Bills from the playoffs two out of the last three years, the Bills get the opportunity to return the favor in front of their fans. 

The Bills have been on a heater, winners of six straight as they rallied to the AFC East title and the number two seed in the playoffs. While the Chiefs comfortably won their division, they had some setbacks which led to several unexpected losses and a lower playoff seeding. 

This should be yet another incredibly tight and exciting game with the winner heading to the AFC Championship game against the winner of the Houston-Baltimore game. Below is the full analysis of each team’s injury reports, projected inactives, and final observations.

Buffalo Bills Injury Report


CB Christian Benford (Right Knee)

Benford was a mildly surprising player ruled out before Friday’s practice after he suffered a right knee injury on Monday. By video, there was a strong suspicion of a medial meniscus tear as seen below.

Despite his attempt to return to play on Monday by riding the bike to keep the knee loose, he was unable to. Assuming the meniscus is torn, depending on how significant the tear determines how quickly he could return to play. 

If this was a small tear, he could have potentially played through the injury but swelling, potential locking or catching in the knee, and pain could have limited this. This is most likely what happened when he was in the training room which forced them to shut it down for the week. The hope is that a week off can help get things back under control should the Bills advance.

WR Gabe Davis (Left Knee)

After spraining his left PCL against the Miami Dolphins in Week 18, Davis missed last week’s game to no one’s surprise. However, it was a mild surprise that he was unable to practice all week and will miss this game again. 

The fact that he missed two games in a row isn’t uncommon, especially at his position, but this confirms the injury is more likely a Grade 2 sprain versus the Grade 1 originally suspected. This potentially puts next week in jeopardy should the Bills make it, but he is performing rehab often and likely receiving some type of PRP injection to aid in the healing process.

S Taylor Rapp (Left Calf)

Before Friday’s practice, Rapp was ruled out of Sunday’s game, an odd determination considering the injury and timeline. Watching the video below, he suffered the calf strain securing the game-winning interception against the Dolphins before hopping around due to the pain.

It wasn’t surprising that he missed last week as a precaution, but I would have thought the calf was healed enough to play. Considering the cold weather, there may have been concern he aggravates the injury or it’s also possible he had a setback during rehab. Either way, he is out and Damar Hamlin gets another shot to see extended defensive snaps.

LB Baylon Spector (Back)

Another mild surprise, Spector was ruled out before Friday’s practice. In the clip below when he recovers the fumble, he gets a knee to the back and was unable to return. 

He was unable to practice all week suggesting that the pain was too much. On Tuesday, I brought up the possibility that he could have suffered a transverse spinous process fracture due to the direct blow. If that was indeed the case, then the pain, even with injection would have been too much to work through. He is a loss from a special teams and depth standpoint, but the team can game plan around his absence.


LB Terrel Bernard (Right Ankle)

This is quite possibly the biggest question mark heading into the game on Sunday. Looking at the video below, Bernard suffered a lateral ankle sprain. The pain and suspected damage were severe enough that he required an air cast and carted off. At the time, there was concern for a fibular fracture.

Fortunately, Bernard avoided a fracture and the team has been hopeful about his injury and availability to play. The key thing I took out of this was that he is in meetings suggesting he’s still part of the game plan.

Furthermore, the Buffalo News confirmed that this was the same ankle he injured against the Chargers in Week 16. This prior injury likely led to some increased laxity in the ankle which when it hit, caused acute pain and swelling, but not all that much worse damage. This made the ankle more susceptible to re-injury but cut down on the recovery time. 

In the clip below, we get a great look at Bernard’s ankle as he walks. There is a slight limp which isn’t surprising considering the damage within the ankle, but a lot less than I would expect for someone coming off what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. 

There may have been some gamesmanship with Bernard’s quote and the following tweet, but sometimes they do have to see how things progress. Setbacks can occur but the training staff and coaches had a plan for what they want to do for Sunday. 

In looking at this further, I went back to see if there were any clues as to who else did not practice yet played in a game. Before this article, there were 19 instances where a player did not practice and was questionable or doubtful heading into the game. According to my research and records, 18 of those players did not play. But one did, Vernon Butler in the AFC Championship game in 2020. 

However, on further review, Butler did get a limited practice that Friday before the game and played. 

So this means that there has not been one player who did not practice all week and played in the following game since 2017.

Not that the odds were great before, but it went from 5 percent down to 0 percent. In a regular season game, he doesn’t play. In nearly any other case, he doesn’t play. But this is the playoffs and the above-mentioned information tells me that there is either some serious gamesmanship or that Bernard has a real shot to play. 

The previous injury to the ankle created the laxity which in turn led to less new damage plus the perceived optimism has me thinking he suits up. This might be wishful thinking and fan bias, but they’ve been oddly optimistic about his chances and they know what he can and can’t do. They were optimistic about Josh Allen playing through his UCL sprain last year, while paraphrasing, using the wording that they were taking it day-by-day and even hour-by-hour.

Should Bernard play, he will be limited with lateral mobility and he will have difficulty squaring up with his tackles. He will be able to move north/south and still protect against the run. His pass protection may be limited, but it wouldn’t be impossible for him to still play in these instances. If they can tape him up enough to play like they had before or platoon his snaps, they can get him through this game. 

There may be no next game and playing without Bernard altogether may sink their chances. There are outliers in trend analysis, let’s see if this is the case here for Terrel Bernard. 

CB Taron Johnson (Concussion)

Against all odds, Taron Johnson is poised to pass through the concussion protocol in under a week for the fifth consecutive time in his NFL career. This flies in the face of most players who take on average 12 days to return from their second in-season concussion. It beats the timeline for most players to clear after one singular concussion.

Johnson says that the only thing that he has to do is go through the final concussion check which is being evaluated by the independent neurologist. It’s crazy to see that he has not missed extended time due to the concussions and apparently at the time, he felt he could return to the game. Barring any surprise failure, Johnson should pass indicating a remarkable recovery. 

CB Rasul Douglas (Left Knee)

Despite practicing in full on Friday, Douglas is still listed as questionable ahead of Sunday’s game. He missed last week’s game due to what was assumed to be a contusion, but on closer observation, may have been an MCL sprain. 

In the video below from Jon Scott of Spectrum News, you can see a knee brace under the sweatpants on the left side. This would suggest some type of instability further supporting the MCL sprain. 

Whether he plays with it or not remains to be seen, most agility players don’t play with a hinged knee brace, but if he needs to play with it to get out there, then so be it. I do expect him to play and help soften the blow of not having Christian Benford.

P Sam Martin (Left Hamstring)

A rare punter injury, Martin injured his left hamstring trying to chase down the live ball on the blocked field goal in Monday’s game. 

With this being the plant leg and needing to generate so much power through the ground as he swings his opposite leg, it will be difficult for him to consistently provide longer punts down the field. This will affect his accuracy and in turn, lead to poorer field positions.

Martin has not dealt with this in the past as he noted in the video above. In normal cases, I don’t believe he plays. But this is the playoffs and his status comes down to roster gymnastics. After speaking with Joe Marino on Locked On Bills, the Bills would be foolish to use a call-up on a punter. 

The Bills have only two call-ups available and they need to be used on players who will play more than 10 snaps a game. They will do one of three things with this position:

  • They will play him banking on him being healthy enough to get the occasional punt off and hold snaps. This implies that the offense is scoring and they’re not stalling out where they have to punt. 
  • They make Martin inactive and elevate Haack for this game only.
  • They placed Martin on injured reserve and signed Matt Haack to the active roster. This would end Martin’s season but would avoid the uncertainty at the position and potentially further problems.

I had been pessimistic about Martin’s chances to play and I still believe that to be the case. But considering his position and other injury needs on the roster, they may have to take a risk and play him or end Martin’s season to win this game. He either plays or goes to injured reserve. We will know by 4 pm on Saturday. 


QB Josh Allen (Neck) 

Josh Allen has been a frequent participant on the injury report this season due to his right shoulder injury back in Week 6 followed by his neck injury that caused a stinger in Week 17. Fortunately, outside of a couple of snaps, he has not missed any time and has been the engine that powers the offense.

Alex is playing some of his best football right now and this neck injury does not appear to be hampering his abilities. 

LB Tyrel Dodson (Left Shoulder)

After missing last week’s game following a left shoulder injury, Dodson appears on track to play this Sunday. With how he hit over the top of his shoulder, there was concern for a labrum or even rotator cuff tear. 

We saw Dodson return to practice this week with a shoulder harness underneath his shirt. He appeared to be moving well from a lower body standpoint and engaging his left arm well. I don’t anticipate that he leads with his left shoulder during tackling unless necessary. I do expect him to take the occasional hit that lets him know that he’s still dealing with an injured shoulder. Either way, his return is welcomed at such a hard-hit position due to injury.

S Micah Hyde (Neck)

Hyde continues to require regular maintenance on his neck that had caused him to suffer three stingers in six weeks. After missing the Week’s 14 and 15, he has not appeared to suffer any type of re-aggravation to the area and continues to be one of the backbones of the secondary. 

WR Stefon Diggs (Foot)

Diggs was a surprise addition to the injury report this week with a foot injury along with veteran rest. Sean McDermott noted that the injury happened early in the Steelers game but the injury was only later noted in practice.

While the exact injury is unknown, his dance moves suggest that he is healthy enough to move like that below. 

For now, Diggs does not have a designation and will play Sunday.

Update: this may have been the play where Diggs injured his foot.

Kansas City Chiefs Injury Report


DT Derrick Nnadi (Left Tricep)

Nnadi left the game against the Miami Dolphins with 5:30 left in the second quarter with what the team designated an elbow injury. Looking at the play, he was pushed backward and then over before requiring help to get up. As he ran off the field, he favored his left arm as it hung down to the side. 

While the broadcast view was not ideal to see what happened, it’s possible he either got hit on the elbow/triceps region or the elbow was forcefully bent when he was blocking. This could have caused a tricep strain, knocking him out of the game. 

Had he played, he would have had difficulty in blocking or pushing his assignment out of the way. He will have difficulty shedding blocks on that side and generally lose leverage. However, he is ruled out for at least this week.

Update: According to his Instagram, he underwent surgery to repair a torn triceps. His season is over and the Chiefs could make a roster move later as a result.

OT Wayna Morris (Concussion)

Morris suffered a concussion in the Week 18 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He was unable to practice all week after not passing through the league concussion protocol and missed the Wild Card game. 

On Wednesday, he returned to practice in full but on Thursday, he was downgraded to limited, suggesting he had some possible symptom reproduction. On Friday, he was unable to practice and was ruled out.

WR Kadarius Toney (Hip/Ankle)

Toney has been working through the hip injury dating back to Week 12 and added an ankle injury possibly suffered in practice before Week 18.

Toney has missed the last two games and will miss a third now after being ruled out.

Update: He was downgraded to out on Saturday.


DE Charles Omenihu (Hamstring)

Omenihu picked up a hamstring injury coming out of last week’s game versus the Miami Dolphins. He appeared in a season-high 80 percent of defensive snaps and depending on game flow, could see increased snaps again.

Update: However, Omenihu was downgraded to questionable due to an illness on Saturday. Most players don’t miss due to illness.

LB Willie Gay (Neck)

Gay popped up on the injury report on Friday with a neck injury, putting in limited practice but initially had no designation.

Update: On Saturday, he was downgraded to questionable for the game.

WR Justyn Ross (Hamstring)

Ross suffered a hamstring strain late in the third quarter of Week 1 which forced him to leave the game. He was unable to practice fully last week and missed the game as a result. He returned to practice this week limited Wednesday and Thursday. 

Considering his depth role on the offense and contributions to special teams, he may see playing time restricted to special teams to not aggravate the injury should the Chiefs advance.


OT Donovan Smith (Neck)

Smith has missed the last five games due to a neck injury suffered against the Green Bay Packers back in Week 13. He originally suffered a neck stinger according to reports at the time. As he has missed every game since, it’s more likely he is working through a cervical disc herniation or even foraminal stenosis causing pain and weakness down the arm. He suited up last week and he was able to play in 100 percent of snaps.

CB La’Jarius Sneed (Calf)

Sneed suffered a calf injury in the Week 16 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders that saw him play through the injury the following week. However, he appeared to suffer a setback in Week 17 which forced him to miss the regular season finale against the Chargers. He was able to play last week in Miami without any notable updates indicating there are minimal issues. Despite being limited on all week, this appears to be more of a load management issue.

LB Nick Bolton (Left Wrist)

Bolton is still rehabbing from his Week 6 left wrist dislocation that required surgery and a stint on injured reserve, missing five games. He was questionable two weeks ago and missed the game, but this appeared to be more of a veteran rest for the playoffs. He had been playing with a club when he returned but has still been very effective.

S Deon Bush (Elbow)

Bush continues to practice in full all week despite suffering an elbow injury in Week 18 against the Chargers. He has seen most of his playing time on special teams this year but got extended work in the defense in the regular season finale.

TE Noah Gray (Elbow)

Gray has been dealing with an elbow injury the last two weeks but has not been limited throughout the week and will play on Sunday.

WR Rashee Rice (Hamstring)

Rice suffered a hamstring strain in Week 17, forcing him out of the regular season finale. He has been able to practice in full the last two weeks and has no injury designation.

WR Marquez Valding-Scantling (Oblique)

MVS appeared to suffer an oblique injury against the Chargers in Week 18 but was able to practice in full this week and will play. There is a chance for re-aggravation to the area but that can be said for many other soft tissue injuries.


WR Skyy Moore (Knee)

Moore was placed on injured reserve following the win over the New England Patriots in Week 15. According to reports, the knee “swelled up” on him suggesting some type of knee irritation. He has spent the last four weeks on injured reserve and returned to practice this week. Unfortunately for him, the team did not activate him and he will remain on injured reserve.

Buffalo Bills Projected Inactives

S Taylor Rapp

WR Gabriel Davis

CB Christian Benford

LB Baylon Spector

OT Alec Anderson

DT Poona Ford

DE Kingsley Johnathan

Call Ups: LB AJ Klein, WR Andy Isabella

Kansas City Chiefs Projected Inactives

OT Wayna Morris

WR Kadarius Toney

DT Derrick Nnadi

DE Felix Anudike-Uzomah

CB Keith Taylor

Final Observations

The winner of this game will be who makes fewer mistakes. This should be a highly competitive game against two talented teams that know each other very well. Injuries are unfortunately a huge storyline this weekend with the injury advantage going to the Chiefs. In addition, add in the rest advantage that the Chiefs have playing on Saturday while the Bills had to play on Monday.

With the home field advantage, this could help mitigate this disadvantage, but if several of the  Bills players who are questionable do not play including Bernard and Johnson, then this could be a long day for the Bills. I’m hoping for a well-prepared Bills team that can continue to fight through adversity and secure the win. Whenever you are reading this, it likely still feels like an eternity until Sunday evening. 

Let’s hope for a Bills win and for the season to last at least one more week.

Top Photo Credit: Lauren Leigh Bacho | Getty Images