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ProFootballDoc: NFL Injuries to watch with playoff implications and a Monday Night Preview

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Hope you won your fantasy championship, but we now must shift our focus to the real football playoffs and how the injury implications might affect the outcomes.
Our Sunday five picks went 3-2, bringing our season total to 48-27-5 for a +21 margin. A friend called me to say that I would have entered this week tied for third in the Westgate Las Vegas Supercontest, but that goes 17 weeks so I will report back. Although I primarily chose sides, I did pick some totals, and this Supercontest for millions is for sides only.

The Rams have been among the healthier teams overall, but now they suffer some key injuries in what amounts to a play-in game versus the Cardinals. Jared Goff dislocated his thumb, as we indicated in-game at www.profootbaldoc.com, and now there are even reports of a fracture. I was amazed he could finish the game without even the use of a splint or tape. One could see the thumb moving in and out of place as he continued to play. 

The fact that it is unstable likely means surgery with pinning. I would be surprised if Goff could play this next week. Meanwhile, the Rams are already missing Cam Akers from a high ankle sprain, and now Darrell Henderson suffered a high ankle sprain of his own. Akers has a better chance to play than Henderson, but both running backs might miss against Arizona.

Kyler Murray injured his leg on the final play, and by video it should not be anything significant. However, he did spend an inordinate amount of time last game throwing off his back foot. Earlier this season, he overcame a throwing shoulder AC joint sprain, but he should be healthy for this key matchup.

In the NFC East, Washington is still in the driver’s seat, but the much-discussed calf injury on Alex Smith is likely to linger. The club is clearly not happy with Dwayne Haskins, and it would not shock me if Taylor Heinicke was named the QB starter this week. Antonio Gibson performed admirably with his turf toe and will likely play and be productive again with another injection.

The Cowboys Ezekiel Elliot performed well with his calf issue. He had 19 carries for 105 yards and should be good to go in the must-win game versus the Giants. Daniel Jones did OK with his hamstring and ankle and will be a week healthier. His team is in the same must-win situation, but they also need a Washington loss.

The Colts missed their offensive tackles and gave up five sacks, including a strip/fumble. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has a chance to return from knee and ankle issues, and right tackle Braden Smith has a chance to come off the COVID list for the must-win game against the Jaguars.

The Browns now need to win to ensure their playoff spot. Without their wide receiver corps due to COVID close contact, they stumbled against the Jets. Assuming no one tests positive, Cleveland will have its pass catchers back as it faces the Steelers.

Another injury with playoff implications to watch is Deshaun Watson’s elbow, since the Texans play the Titans. We broke down our worry for his ulnar collateral (Tommy John) ligament sprain and ulnar nerve issue at www.profootballdoc.com. This is something that could turn into a much bigger deal, and Tennessee may have a much easier path to the AFC South crown if Watson misses the game, as I expect him to do.

As for Monday night, the Bills are clearly the healthier side. 

Buffalo is the new champion of the AFC East, and the Bills are a full grade healthier than New England. The Patriots started with COVID opt-outs, continued with injuries and now have lost the reigning defensive player of the year in Stephon Gilmore. This game tonight should be a Bills coronation party.

One more week to go and then on to playoffs, where we will have special playoff coverage and analysis here and at www.profootballdoc.com.

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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