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The regular season ended with a very symmetrical overall record of 50-30-5 for each of the 17 weeks. We are proud of the +20 margin for the season and hope to refine the injury analysis and do even better next season. Hopefully, you played along and made some money or at least had some fun.
On to the playoffs! OutKick and www.profootballdoc.com will have comprehensive playoff coverage with many new features, including the early posting of matchups, Field View and Injury Index.
In the meantime, here are the top 10 playoff injury issues:
1. Jared Goff – The Rams QB suffered a thumb fracture dislocation in Week 16 and had surgery, missing the Week 17 game. Despite this, I believe he has a good chance to return for this week’s playoff game. After all, he finished the game in which he hurt the thumb without even tape or a splint.
2. Mike Evans – The Tampa Bay wide out suffered a scary looking non-contact knee injury. By video, he hyperextended his knee but seems to have avoided structural damage, as early reports seem to confirm. The worry is a bone bruise and swelling, and there is still question whether Evans can play this week, but at least his season is not done.
3. Alvin Kamara – The Saints running back tested positive on Friday January 1 and missed the Week 17 contest. Assuming the test was on Thursday and the results returned the following day, that is a tight 10 days before the Sunday contest. Of course the public reports and actual test dates may be off, but if they are accurate, Kamara will not be eligible to play in the Wild Card round under the current COVID protocol. The rest of the Saints running backs were only close contact and would be OK to practice and play, as long as their tests remain negative.
4. Cooper Kupp – The Rams wide receiver reportedly tested positive on 12/31/20, a day before Kamara. However, their game is on Saturday, a day earlier. Thus, Kupp (and Michael Brockers) may have the same protocol problem. If the game were Sunday, the mandatory 10 days would pass. Keep in mind that sometimes the public revelation of the positive test date is delayed, so there could be wiggle room. But on the surface, it seems that Kupp will not be eligible to play in the Wild Card round.
5. Michael Thomas – The Saints star WR was put on injured reserve with three games to go for the specific purpose of resting him for the playoffs. His high ankle sprain has lingered, and the rest should have him at close to 100% for the playoffs.
6. Clyde Edwards-Helaire – The Chiefs running back injured his hip and ankle in Week 15. He will have four weeks before he plays, as his team has the playoff bye. A month seems like just enough time for him to return and be the No. 1 ball carrier again, although Kansas City still has Le’Veon Bell.
7. A.J. Brown – The Titans wideout has been battling knee and ankle issue. He reaggravated the ankle in the game this week and missed some plays but returned for key catches. Expect Brown to miss practice time this week but continue his pattern of game day production.
8. Cole Beasley – The Bills slot receiver missed Week 17 for a knee issue, but he has a chance to return for the playoffs. Look for him to be worked into practice this week.
9. Alex Smith – The undisputed “Comeback Player of the Year” made it through his calf strain. We have explained why it is particularly hard for him to play through, but he will be a week healthier and will undoubtedly play along with Antonio Gibson (turf toe) and Terry McLaurin (ankle) versus the Bucs.
10. Philip Rivers – His consecutive regular season streak is at 240 games. Add in playoffs, and it is even longer. His turf toe has not gone away, and his mobility will be further tested without left tackle Anthony Castonzo. However, trust that Rivers will not miss any games and will find a way to play.
Please go to www.profootballdoc.com and continue to monitor OutKick for all the playoff injury and matchup analysis you need as we head into the postseason.