These are the Buffalo Bills that I’ve waited to cheer for since I converted to my fandom to full-fledged Bills membership many years ago. To see this organization win as they have and know that they are not mortgaging the future to win now is incredibly pleasing. This continues to be a week-to-week league and the Bills have shown that they can get the job done nearly every week. The true test will be the playoffs, maximizing the winning window that Buffalo has not had in nearly a generation.
While a 10-3 start is incredible, the Bills still need to secure the AFC East to get a home playoff game and potentially control who they play in the postseason. After a rough portion of the season where injuries beget injuries, the Bills are getting healthy at the right time. Thankfully there were injuries that did not lead to any concern for the remaining schedule.
C Mitch Morse (left elbow)
Morse exited the game for several series after sustaining a left elbow injury during the second Bills drive. He was observed on the sidelines getting his elbow taped up. This tape job was performed to limit hyperextension to the elbow according to a Twitter follower who happens to be an ATC below. This could have been protecting the distal biceps required for elbow flexion or it could have been protecting from elbow hyperextension if he had gotten hit up underneath the arm.
Looking at the film, it’s not clear when he suffered the injury. I didn’t see a specific instance where he gets his elbow hit that required attention. He was wearing bracing before the injury occurred and has often worn bracing to the area in general. The type of bracing did not change after indicating that the taping may have needed to be replaced.
He was able to return after some time off and testing the area on the sidelines though it did initially appear at times he had trouble engaging blocks with his left arm. Pain and swelling are likely to present which may have been more of a factor in getting things taped back up after examination of the area.
I’m not certain that he will miss any time with this injury as he was able to return and the elbow is a stable joint limiting further injury. Add in bracing/tape and he should continue to play through this ailment. This one will be one to watch on the injury report this week but I’m not concerned long term.
TE Dawson Knox (stinger)
Knox startled everyone by grabbing at his head and falling to the turf shortly after a routine block in the 3rd quarter. Fortunately, he was able to walk off under his own power and the initial pain appeared to subside. Based on how he was grabbing his neck/right trapezius on the sidelines, I had thought he suffered a stinger due to how he was hit. He was later reported as having a stinger, confirming my thoughts.
Stingers occur when there is a sudden compression or stretch to the cervical nerves that branch off the neck. This can cause a temporary intense shock down the nerves of the neck that can be felt down the arm in some cases. This can be the result of the nerve getting compressed coming out between the cervical vertebrae or this could be the result of a herniated or bulging disc in the area pressing on the nerve. Stingers typically don’t last long and aren’t recurrent unless there are underlying issues such as a disc issue like we saw happen with Eric Wood back in 2017. I am not implying that to be the case, rather just to give context to the situation.
Like Morse, he also sat out briefly before returning and creating several plays later that helped cement the win for the Bills. This injury isn’t something that I expect to see on the injury report unless he is dealing with continued soreness to the area or there are persistent symptoms.
CB Taron Johnson (concussion)
Johnson was downgraded to out in the 3rd quarter with a concussion while trying to tackle Steelers back James Conner. He was whisked away to the blue medical tent for further evaluation and eventually to the locker room where they officially diagnosed him with a concussion.
From what I’ve found, this is Johnson’s first documented NFL concussion. They take on average 7-10 days to recover from which means his timeline to play Saturday against the Broncos isn’t great. He could pass through the protocol quickly but isn’t likely considering the research. I don’t anticipate him playing Sunday and based on the severity, only time will tell how much he will really miss. Until Johnson returns, Siran Neal will likely get increased playing time.
QB Josh Allen (right knee)
Allen continues to work back from his right knee injury still sporting the hinged brace. His 6 rushes for 28 yards is an uptick from last week and he showed a greater ability to use the entire field to run as needed. He had an effective run to the left, showing the ability to push off his right leg and overall showed greater confidence.
LB Matt Milano (Left pectoral)
Milano performed well last week seeing 19 snaps before increasing his total snaps increase to 27 which was 47% of the total snaps. He continues to wrap offensive players up with greater ability and show why his presence improves the defensive performance.
I’m unsure what the team will do with playing time as AJ Klein has shown an ability to play with placed in the right situation. He may continue to split reps to preserve his health or it may be best from a defensive scheme. Either way, it’s a great situation to have and if Milano needs to play more, he can, but if he’s not needed, then this reduces the risk of either re-injury or other injuries.
WR John Brown (right high ankle sprain)
The Bills practice on a short week with the Denver Broncos on Saturday at 4:30 pm. This game is being played in Denver which could have an impact on the availability of John Brown. He is eligible to return this week, he has been activated for practice, but I’m not certain that he does.
He is still coming off his high ankle sprain suffered against the Cardinals in Week 10 and he also has sickle cell trait that he has battled through during his career. He has played in Denver before but not since 2014 where he had two receptions for 4 yards. The lower oxygen levels due to the higher altitude could cause his body to fatigue quicker leading to potentially more injuries. To read more on the effects of sickle cell trait, check out this article from Dr. Melanie Friedlander over at Steelers Depot.
I’m not implying that this will prevent him from playing, it hasn’t in the past, but it is a variable that has to be considered especially coming off the numerous injuries this season. This is something that both Brown and the medical staff have likely discussed with his return to play timeline from the high ankle sprain.
With the emergence of Gabriel Davis and a Broncos team on the cusp of playoff elimination, I believe the Bills can survive another week without Brown. They can have him come back in Week 16 to get reps in against playoff-caliber teams in the Patriots and Dolphins before the playoffs start. The 6 total weeks off for the high ankle sprain would allow him plenty of time to come back fully healthy in time for the playoffs.
It is remarkable that the Bills can suffer all these injuries and just fill the gaps with backup talent until the starters come back to perform. We’ve seen plenty of other teams suffer several injuries that simply derail their playoff hopes and yet the Bills continue to march through. A win this Saturday would lock up the AFC East and allow the Bills to consider resting starters as able. The only downside would be that a win for the Patriots or Dolphins may allow them to get into the postseason which would not be ideal to play the same team 3 times in a season, regardless if there was a regular-season sweep.
Continue to watch the injury report and updates coming out of Banged Up Bills and One Bills Drive as the Bills head out to Denver to attempt to move to 11-3 on the season.
Top Photo Credit: MSN.com