In general, the remaining eight NFL playoff teams are among the healthiest clubs in the league. The surprise Cleveland Browns are the exception. However, even with a “C” pass defense health grade, they upset the Steelers.
Here is a rundown of the key injury issues. The remaining playoff teams are ranked in terms of health, best to worst:
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are the healthiest team remaining on both offense and defense. Zach Moss is the main injury issue. By video, he suffered a significant left high ankle sprain. He will miss the divisional round for sure, though his season may be done. Buffalo needs to get the Super Bowl for Moss to even have a chance to return. Coming into the Wild Card game, we thought that Cole Beasley would play, and we were right. He played well with 7 catches for 57 yards. He left limping late in the game, but he should be good to go for next week.
2. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are peaking at the right time in terms of the team and their health. They returned key defenders and did not sustain a significant injury this weekend. Ronnie Stanley, their key left tackle, remains their main injury, but they have already adapted to overcome that loss.
3. Green Bay Packers
The Packers are also peaking at the right time in terms of health, but they suffered a key injury in practice. Left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL, and we have yet to see how Green Bay really adjusts to this injury. Will it derail a potent offense, or can the Packers compensate for it as they take on the Rams and their powerful defensive line?
4. New Orleans Saints
The Saints have returned to essentially full health on offense. Michael Thomas proved his high ankle sprain was behind him with a good performance. Alvin Kamara returned off the COVID list, and Drew Brees has put the rib issues behind him. Latavius Murray and Patrick Robinson both have thigh issues that will be a battle, and guard Nick Easton went on IR for a concussion.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have had their injury issues this year. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who suffered hip and ankle issues in Week 15, is the big question mark. By video, I believe he could return to play this week. His backup, Le’Veon Bell, missed Week 17 with a knee issue but should return. Tyreek Hill will be fine with his hamstring, and Sammy Watkins should be OK with his calf. LB Willie Gay has a mild ankle sprain, and Ben Niemann sat out Week 17 with a hamstring injury. The main issues are on the offensive line, as RT Mitchell Schwartz has not returned from a back injury, and now backup Mike Remmers has a back issue himself. Earlier this season, they lost left guard Kelechi Osemele.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ronald Jones didn’t play due to a pregame aggravation of a quad injury. It remains to be seen what the severity is and whether he can play, but be prepared for Leonard Fournette to continue to step in. Mike Evans made more plays late in the victory and seems poised to be healthier next week. Devin White and Steve McLendon will return off the COVID list. Bucs guard Alex Cappa broke his ankle and is done for the season, even if his team makes it to the Super Bowl
7. Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff didn’t start, but he made no excuses with the thumb. He came in and led the Rams to a convincing win, so he has to be the starter next week. John Wolford left with a scary neck compression injury and was even sent to the hospital, but was cleared of any long-term injury. He is said to have a stinger and will likely be too stiff to practice and play this week. Blake Bortles may need to be the back-up. Cooper Kupp left with a right knee injury. Mike Garafolo has confirmed what we thought, and the team now says bursitis. This is the opposite knee as his ACL tear in 2018. Aaron Donald has a rib cartilage injury and is unlikely to practice. However, he will try to play with a rib block injection.
8. Cleveland Browns
The Browns survived their “C” pass defense Injury Index, giving up 500+ passing yards. The turnovers made the difference in the game. They will get two key corners back off COVID and will get much healthier, but overall Cleveland is the most injured team left in the playoffs. Right tackle Jack Conklin has a hamstring injury. Left guard Michael Dunn has a calf strain. Both are unlikely to return, but Joe Bitonio should come off the COVID list. The recent loss of Olivier Vernon is still key.
Good luck to all of the teams and to you in your wagering and cheering. Go to www.profootballdoc.com for free matchup-specific health analysis, as the Field Views and Injury Index for the four divisional game are posted.