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ProFootballDoc: Injuries Affecting Sunday’s NFL Division Playoff Games

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Weather will be less of a factor on Sunday with the game temperature in Kansas City projected at 40 degrees and no precipitation/wind, while the other game is indoors in New Orleans.

Divisional playoff teams are traditionally on the healthy side, yet there are some actionable health advantages in the two Sunday matchups.

Browns healthier than last round but not healthier than Chiefs

The Browns return cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off the COVID-19 list but lose Robert Jackson to a hamstring injury. This improves their pass defense with the return of the top cover player. But do they have enough corners for all the Chiefs offensive weapons? Sammy Watkins is out with a calf injury, but Tyreek Hill is a full go with his hamstring issue. Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a reasonable chance to return after his Week 15 hip/ankle injury.

On the offensive line, the Browns get back left guard Joe Bitonio but right tackle Jack Conklin seems unlikely to play with his hamstring injury. Defensively, the Achilles tear of Olivier Vernon hurts greatly — but they managed in the Wild Card round without him. The Chiefs received good news with right tackle Mike Remmers’ back issue, as he will start Sunday. That gives the Chiefs a solid option while Mitchell Schwartz remains sidelined.

Overall, unless rust gets in the way, the Chiefs are the healthier side going into the divisional matchup. The Chiefs are favored by 10 and last year in their three playoff games (including the Super Bowl), they trailed by double digits and won all three by double digits in the end.

Bucs with potential matchup advantage

The Bucs get healthier on defense but have obstacles on offense. Top linebacker Devin White and defensive tackle Steve McLendon are back off the COVID-19 reserve list. No. 1 corner Carlton Davis is now fully recovered from his groin, which is huge for the Buccaneers defense. Ronald Jones is unlikely to play but Leonard Fournette will start and is healthy. Right guard Alex Cappa is out with a broken ankle, which could affect the offensive line some on Sunday. Mike Evans is a week better from his knee injury and played well last week.

The Saints’ Big Three are healthy with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees all past their issues. Meanwhile, two key offensive players in Taysom Hill and Latavius Murray are questionable. By video study, my feeling is Hill will play through his knee issue while I am more pessimistic on Murray.

Defensively, Trey Hendrickson is back, but one awkward hit could flare up a stinger and force him out. Cornerback Patrick Robinson is out with a hamstring injury and it will be all hands on deck to stop the trio of Bucs receivers Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Evans, not to mention tight end Rob Gronkowski.

It is hard enough to beat a team three times in a season, but even harder to do that to Tom Brady, especially when the Bucs are the healthier team. And for wagering, Tampa even gets thee points, but the money-line also seems appealing.

For full details and updates on all the games, go to www.profootballdoc.com. Good luck and enjoy the second half of one of the best football weekends of the year.

Written by Pro Football Doc

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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