Wild Card Weekend NFL Injury News and Updates
They are calling this weekend super Wild Card Weekend. It’s hard to disagree. Starting at 1:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, we pretty much have playoff NFL football until just before midnight Sunday. That makes this one of my favorite sports weekends of the year. If only the NHL were already playing, but that’s next weekend.
While your fantasy leagues are over, there are still daily fantasy sports, or perhaps you’re playing in one of the many playoff pools that are out there. Either way, here is to hoping this column can help you with your decisions. Oh, my favorite sports weekend is usually the first or second weekend in October. The NFL is in full swing, MLB playoffs have started, and the NHL has just begun. It has a little bit of everything for me.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
The Colts report no injuries. Well, that’s a good thing for them as they will need to be at full strength in order to have any chance at beating the Bills, who are playing about as well as you can play. Weather-wise, it’s not expected to be all that bad in Buffalo. The temperature will be in the upper 20s with a slight wind. This is good news for Phillip Rivers. Under the best of circumstances, Rivers is a question to throw the ball deep into the secondary as he doesn’t have that kind of arm strength anymore. This is about the best weather the Colts could’ve asked for and certainly better than the alternatives.
The Bills’ injuries come from their receivers. Stefon Diggs has an oblique injury and practiced in a limited fashion Thursday. Cole Beasley is dealing with a knee injury and, like Diggs, was limited in practice Thursday. They are both considered to be questionable for the game Saturday, with Beasley being more of a concern than Diggs. They are both expected to play.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
We all know what the question is here, who will start at quarterback for the Rams? Goff has returned to practice this week after having surgery to repair his dislocated right thumb. Coach Sean McVay is playing it close to the vest about whether Goff will start, but the smart money is on yes. The Rams aren’t all that dependent on a top quarterback anyway. The good news is that whoever starts at QB for the Rams will have Cooper Kupp to throw to. He was activated from COVID-IR this week and will play.
The Seahawks report no injuries. This will be one of the few times this season where they don’t have any question marks regarding their running backs as Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are both ready to play. These two teams have already played twice this season. The first game was a 23-16 win for the Rams while the second a 20-9 victory for Seattle. These were both low scoring games, something you may want to remember if you’re inclined to place a wager or two on this contest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team
The significant injury for the Bucs is to the knee of Mike Evans. He suffered a hyper-extension after dropping a touchdown pass last week. The good news is that there wasn’t any additional damage and all of his ligaments in that knee are in tack. Evans should play Saturday night, but the Bucs may play it safe with him and not have him run as many routes or even remove him early from the game should this be a blowout as some are expecting.
As for Washington, they are a mess. They may not even be here if not for the Eagles, well, making an organizational decision last week, shall we say. Alex Smith is quite obviously limited in his mobility due to that calf injury and may split time at quarterback with Taylor Heinicke. Yeah, this is not what you want. Antonio Gibson still has a toe injury that he was able to play through last week and the week before but didn’t have that same burst. Gibson will play Sunday, and the WFT better hope he is closer to the player he was earlier this season, before the injury. Terry McLaurin still has the ankle injury and is also questionable to play this week. McLaurin has already practiced more this week than last, so he’s going to play Saturday. The question will be how effective he can be, and does it matter with who he has throwing him the ball?
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
The Ravens are also looking like they are playing their best football of the season. That being said, the Titans and Derrick Henry ended the Ravens season last year and are looking to do so again. This game will be decided on which defense can stand up the longest to the other team’s run game. Will the Ravens wilt under Henry once again, or will Lamar Jackson run wild versus the Titans? Jackson will also need to complete his share of passes at key times, something he has failed to do in his previous two playoff appearances.
A.J. Brown has been dealing with hand and knee injuries that had him limited in practice Wednesday and missing it entirely Thursday. There is probably no reason to be concerned here as the Titans have been monitoring his practice reps for some time now. Brown will play Sunday.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints
Allen Robinson has a hamstring injury that has been with him for weeks. It has forced him to miss practice time for three straight weeks but not any game time. The same should be true for Sunday. Darnell Mooney is slightly more problematic. He hurt his ankle at the end of the game versus the Packers and hasn’t practiced all week. Mooney is a true game-time decision Sunday.
Let the conspiracy theories fly. Alvin Kamara will play Sunday because that is the 10th day of his isolation after testing positive for COVID. If the game had been scheduled for Saturday, then he would’ve had to miss this contest. The Saints designated Michael Thomas to return from injured reserve on Wednesday. The Saints aren’t telling us if he will play Sunday, but there is a reason they put him on IR in the first place. It was to rest up and be as healthy as possible for the playoffs. Taysom Hill suffered a concussion last week, but he practiced in full Thursday and is expected to play.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Yeah, this may not be pretty. The Browns are still a mess due to COVID. I mean, they haven’t made the playoffs in forever, they finally do, and won’t have their head coach with them as Kevin Stefanski won’t be able to attend the game. Playcalling could be an issue in this one. While no skill players will miss this game due to COVID, the Browns will have zero room for error in this game just to keep it close. Donovan Peoples-Jones doesn’t have a COVID problem but does have a concussion and, as of this writing, has not passed the protocol.
Juju Smith-Schuster missed practice with a knee injury, but it’s an injury he’s been dealing with all season. This was likely just a maintenance day, and JSS will play Sunday night. Technically the Steelers didn’t have a bye week, but they treated Week 17 as such. This has to be good for Ben Roethlisberger, who needed the rest. His surgically repaired arm had been looking weaker and weaker as the season ran along. Hopefully, this week of rest is enough to get him through a Steelers’ playoff run.