Dr. Beth Sullivan | January 4th, 2020
The NFL season is over. All 32 teams have battled for the last 17 weeks and 12 teams are still standing, eight of which will meet this weekend for the annual winner take all wild card festivities. By Sunday night only four of the eight will be standing and ready to move into the divisional round. Injuries occur for all teams during the long NFL season, but how they manage the injuries can play a big role in how they fare in the playoffs. This week I will take a look at injuries that could have an impact on each team as they prepare for the upcoming wild weekend.
Injury-wise, the Bills came through the season in fairly good shape. Unlike previous seasons where they didn’t make the postseason and ended up with double-digit numbers on injured reserve, 2019 ended with only one player being added to IR during the season. Of the six players on IR at the end of the season, five of them have been there all season after being injured during training camp and the preseason. Several players got dinged up in the Bills week 17 finale against the Jets and, in fact, by the end of that game, they had to move a wide receiver to cornerback. Thankfully, Isaiah McKenzie played DB in high school.
Levi Wallace Cornerback
Wallace suffered a sprained ankle in the Bills week 17 game against the Jets. He was a nonparticipant Tuesday and a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday. Even though he was said to be day to day, the main question is one of pain and swelling management. If Wallace isn’t able to suit up, his duties will fall to former Texan, Kevin Johnson. He was listed as questionable on the final injury report and I suspect he will be a game-time decision.
Shaq Lawson Defensive End
Lawson was held out of the Bills week 17 game due to a hamstring injury. He has practiced on a limited basis all week and is expected to be ready to play this week against the Texans. I suspect he was held out of the week 17 game to make sure he was a full go for the playoffs since week 17 made no difference to the Bills playoff seeding.
Andre Roberts Wide Receiver/Kick Returner
Roberts has been a limited participant all week in practice and reports out of Buffalo have been that he is moving well while fielding kicks. I expect he will be a full go come Saturday given the importance of this week’s game.
Ty Nsekhe Offensive Tackle
Nsekhe returned to the field last week and unfortunately reinjured his ankle in that game. He had missed the five weeks prior to week 17 with an ankle injury and Bills fans were not happy to see him reinjured last week. He has been a limited participant all week in practice and like all the other names on this list, I expect him to play come Saturday. How long he will be able to play is another question, but at least the Bills have Cody Ford who replaced Nsekhe when he originally got injured and had been rotating in with him all season.
The Texans ended the season with 13 players on injured reserve. J.J. Watt, who spent the last eight weeks of the season there, was activated this week. They had ten players on the injury report Thursday, with half of them being listed as full participants and the other half listed as limited. The players listed as full participants include Watt, Jacob Martin -outside linebacker, Kenny Stills – wide receiver, Laremy Tunsil -offensive tackle, and Jordan Thomas – tight end, I expect all five of these players to be active on Saturday.
Laremy Tunsil Offensive Tackle
Tunsil missed the end of the Texans week 16 game and the week 17 game with an ankle injury. Since he was a full participant in practice Thursday, I suspect it was a simple sprain and the week of rest helped to resolve any lingering pain and swelling. He should be good to go for Saturday.
J.J. Watt Defensive End
Watt has missed the last eight weeks with his pectoral tear. I know he was a full participant yesterday, but my concern with him is one of conditioning. It is difficult to return to playing at full tilt after having to sit out for the previous eight weeks. I suspect they will monitor his snaps and will have another player ready to spell him when needed. Eight weeks is not very long to recover from a pectoral tear, so how effective he is will be determined Saturday. The big concern I have with his is the risk for further injury if the pectoral muscles weren’t fully healed.
Will Fuller Wide Receiver
Fuller has been a limited participant this week and is expected to be a game-time decision as he recovers from his groin injury. Fuller suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the season when the Texans played the Colts and has been unable to play since. Given his use as a deep threat, being able to run at full speed without risking further injury will be the main issue in deciding if he is ready to play. According to several sources, he is felt to be a longshot for this week’s game against the Bills. If you want to read more about what makes hamstring injuries different you can find it here.
Bradley Roby Cornerback
Roby missed the week 17 game with a hamstring strain that was said to be mild. Normally a grade one strain can take one to three weeks to fully recover. Since he has logged three limited practices this week, provided he has no pain or swelling I suspect he will play on Saturday.
The Titans ended the season with nine players on injured reserve. The team has five players on their injury report this week including three wide receivers, one cornerback and an offensive tackle.
Kalif Raymond Wide Receiver
Raymond was injured during the Titans week sixteen matchup with New Orleans. He entered the concussion protocol after he was injured following a catch and a legal hit by a Saints defender. He was able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday, which means he is moving in the right direction but until he is cleared from the protocol, other information is limited. He hasn’t played a major role this season, but with the Titans being so shorthanded in the wide receiver room, any help would certainly be welcomed. Hopefully, he can clear the protocol and be ready for Saturday.
Cody Hollister Wide Receiver
Hollister was signed to the active roster from the practice squad in November. He missed the week 17 game because of an ankle injury and has been a limited participant this week in practice. A simple ankle sprain can take one to three weeks and a more significant one can take longer. The key to a simple sprain is pain control and limiting swelling. Whether he is able to play this week will depend on how those two things are managed by the training staff. As I said above, the Titans wide receiver room is shorthanded so any help would be appreciated. The fact that he is practicing in a limited capacity means he is moving in the right direction.
Adam Humphries Wide Receiver
Humphries missed the final four games of the season after suffering an ankle injury in week 13. He has been unable to play or practice since the injury and since he is still not participating in practice, he is definitely doubtful for the wildcard game against the Patriots.
Adoree’ Jackson Cornerback
Jackson was also injured during the Week 13 game and has also been out since. However, unlike Humphries, he has been a full practice participant this week and looks to be able to return to the lineup Saturday for the wild card game. Jackson suffered a foot injury and has been working his way back since the week 13 game.
Jack Conklin Offensive Tackle
Conklin sat out practice on Wednesday after tweaking his knee Tuesday. I suspect they were being cautious and if he is able to return to the practice Thursday his availability for Saturday would be more likely. His status will need updating as we get closer to game time.
New England Patriots
The Patriots ended the regular season with ten players on injured reserve, one more than the Titans. The Patriots injury report has been fairly consistent all season.
Julian Edelman Wide Receiver
Edelman has been on the injury report most of the season. He has recently been playing with shoulder and knee issues. Despite being limited on the injury report, I think it would take an act of god for him to not suit up when the Patriots meet the Titans. Once the season is over, I’m sure he will receive definitive treatment for the nagging issues.
Jason McCourty Cornerback
McCourty first appeared on the injury report before Thanksgiving with a groin strain. He initially missed two games, then returned and was only able to play four snaps in week 14. He sat out week 15 then reaggravated the injury during their week 16 game against the Bills and sat out week 17 against the Dolphins. He has been listed as limited all week and whether he is able to play is a good question. As I have discussed numerous times, sprains and strains are tough to determine definitive return times because returning too soon can lead to further injury which is what I feel has happened with him. I know this is a win or go home game, but further injury could be detrimental to his future. This will bear watching. If he is able to play, how effective he will be could also be an issue.
Jamie Collins Linebacker
Collins has been listed as a limited participant since first appearing on the injury report for his current shoulder ailment back in the middle of December. He has been listed as limited repeatedly since the initial injury, but he has managed to play through the injury each week. I suspect the same will happen this week.
Ja’Whaun Bentley Linebacker
Bentley has been dealing with his knee issue since before their week 14 game against the Chiefs. He has been a limited participant each week and continues with that status this week. I suspect he will play on the wildcard game and suspect the knee issue is related to arthritis and is related to pain and swelling.
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