It seems like it’s deja vu for the Bills heading into this week. No no, I’m not talking about 2020, that’s simply Hell at this point. I’m talking about the Bills having the ability to clinch a playoff spot (albeit, with some help) on Sunday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers as they did last season. Despite the Steelers owning an 11-1 record, things can and do change quickly in the NFL which means that a stellar record such as that doesn’t assure a win.
The Bills are a team on the rise and must take care of business again on a national stage. They also need to secure this win if they want to lock up the AFC East and potentially have the opportunity to obtain the number one seed. This is a very exciting time as a fan and the fact that the team is getting healthy as the final stretch approaches is fantastic! Below are the Bills’ injuries for Sunday night.
S Jaquan Johnson (ankle)
Johnson appeared on the injury report after not being noted when it occurred Sunday. Reviewing film, this occurred with 3:44 left in the 4th quarter on a punt return. Johnson tried to double back up to tackle the returner before getting taken out by Tyler Matakevich, hitting his right ankle. Johnson didn’t get up immediately and the camera panned away from the field, preventing further views of Johnson’s reaction or if he required assistance to get off the field.
Looking at limited video and angles available, Matakevich hits Johnson from the outside and strikes his right ankle. I do worry about a high ankle sprain due to the foot being planted in the turf, placing the foot into dorsiflexion with eversion due to the hit from the outside. Add in the fact that he has not practiced this week may shed some light on the severity.
This will be something to watch in the coming weeks with the possibility of sending him to injured reserve if the injury is as bad as I fear.
WR Andre Roberts (Achilles)
Roberts only played in 7 snaps, all on special teams Monday night. In fact, he only really had two plays with the ball where he actually ran. One was a 1st quarter kickoff he brought out for 25 yards that was followed by a routine tackle. The other, a 21-yard punt return early in the 2nd quarter.
The punt return is possibly the only play where I believe he could have strained his Achilles. He caught the ball, stepping back hard onto his left foot, eccentrically loading the leg to push off of before accelerating forward. He dodged and weaved through traffic before being brought down at the 31-yard line.
He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but practiced in full on Friday, but as a veteran, his body may need more rest than recovery from actual injury at this point in the season. He did not have to exit the game for the injury which indicates that this may be more of a minor strain overall. I don’t anticipate this injury to affect his abilities to perform, but will be something to monitor.
G Jon Feliciano (foot/left knee)
Feliciano officially showed up on the injury report with a knee injury along with the foot injury from last week. There are still no specifics regarding the details of the foot injury in which he played 100% of the snaps against the Chargers. As for the left knee, he did get hit in the left knee/thigh area by 49ers defensive tackle Kevin Givens which led to his brief exit followed by his return. He eventually left the game again but that may have been due to the team being up by so much at that point.
By video, it still appears to be a contusion that he can play through. It was somewhat worrisome that he went from full participation on Wednesday to limited on Thursday, but Friday was a full practice and he does not have a game day designation. Overall, he should be able to perform for Sunday night.
DT Quinton Jefferson (hip)
Jefferson was another surprise addition to the injury report this week with a hip injury. He did play in 44% of the defensive snaps which is slightly lower than his regular playing time, but this may have been due to Harrison Phillips being activated and less due to the injury. It was not clear on film where he suffered his injury and what he exactly did at all.
I did find two possibilities but far from assured this is when the hip injury occurred. The first instance came late in the 1st quarter where he fell hard onto his left hip trying to get into the backfield. The second instance came with 7:05 left in the 4th quarter on the Tre’Davious White interception play. These are the only two instances where he fell hard onto his hip, possibly causing a contusion.
If he suffered some type of groin injury or hip flexor strain, this would be very difficult to find on film without more information. Jefferson did trend upwards this week from a DNP to limited to full on Friday indicating that he may have needed more rest than recovery from injury. If he exits the game Sunday night, this could be an area of concern to look into further.
QB Josh Allen (right knee/ankle)
Josh Allen is simply a tough player. He has battled through injury and adversity this season as he continues to rack up AFC player of the week award, his 3rd such honor this season. His passing ability was not hampered, evident with 375 yards and 4 TD’s. It is important to note that he rushed only 6 times for 11 total yards which supported my theory that he would be limited in his mobility.
Reviewing the box score, he only ran out to his right on passes and only ran to his right or up the middle. He never attempted to stress the right knee and ankle by running to his left unless he was flushed out of the pocket. Whether this was by design or coincidence, that will not be known. Heading into the Steelers game, I would expect that his mobility will increase but not be back to 100% yet with his body now two weeks removed from the original injury.
QB Jake Fromm
RB TJ Yeldon
TE Tyler Kroft
S Jaquan Johnson
DE Trent Murphy
The Bills certainly have an advantage over the Steelers in the injury department with Pittsburgh dealing with ailments to several key positions including linebacker and cornerback depth.
At linebacker, the Steelers have already lost Devin Bush and Bud Dupree to season-ending ACL tears and are now down a backup, Robert Spillane to a knee injury, likely an MCL sprain. He did not practice all week and this could force Marcus Allen, a converted safety into starting. Add in the fact that Vince Williams was a high-risk COVID exposure and will not play leaving the Steelers linebacking corps extremely thin.
At cornerback, Steven Nelson will play with a knee injury but his counterpart Joe Haden will not due to a concussion from Monday. This forces rookie James Pierre into starting which could really make for a great mismatch for the Bills wide receivers.
The Bills can certainly win this game. They have the talent to do so. The Steelers are a well-coached team and an NFL team doesn’t get lucky and stumble to an 11-1 record, no matter the circumstance. This will still be a hard-fought game but the Bills have the advantage due to lack of injuries and greater depth available.
Heavy on the bias, but the Bills do have what it takes to win this game. If they don’t, I’d expect it to be close, showing the Bills can keep up with the AFC’s best. Make sure you get all your chores done and possibly get a nap in, it should be an exciting game Sunday night.
Top Photo Credit: Bills Wire-USA Today