There’s a ton of injuries to get to and a game tonight, so let’s get right to it:
Tennessee vs Jacksonville, Thursday night
With Gus Bradley’s seat set to “high,” this is a must-win game for his career. Both teams are underperforming, but for once, Jacksonville’s struggles aren’t focused on injuries. The one major issue is Julius Thomas, who has been hampered by leg injuries all season. Thomas is a game-time decision, but the Jaguars have played without him so far. The running game is problematic, with both Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon underperforming, with some thought that injuries are still holding them back.
On the Tennessee side, the team is relatively healthy at the key positions. Tajae Sharp will test his knee in the pregame, but indications are that he’ll play. He’ll likely lose a bit of targets, but he’s got a tough matchup tonight anyway. The Titans will be missing Perrish Cox and Rashad Johnson in the defensive backfield, so this could be a chance to see if Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns can turn around their seasons.
C.J. Anderson, Denver (torn meniscus)
The Anderson story is incredibly confusing, but it’s mostly in how the information dripped out more than the actual injury. Anderson evidently played through his knee injury on Sunday, but there were no hints that this was a real issue until midweek. This is perfectly within the NFL’s reporting rules, so there’s no “coverup” as some have alleged. In essence, the question is much like what we dealt with regarding Dez Bryant. Doctors are disagreeing about the very diagnosis and prognosis for his knee, which leads to even more confusion once the news leaks out.
The facts, as we know them currently, are that Anderson is dealing with some sort of non-structural issue inside his knee. Originally reported as a bone bruise, there’s some worry that images indicate an meniscus issue that would be much more serious. Anderson is continuing to seek medical information, both with more imaging and with second opinions, which led to a diagnosis of torn meniscus late Thursday afternoon.
This situation is similar to that of Adrian Peterson earlier this year. Anderson could have minor surgery to remove or trim the meniscus (as done for Ben Roethlisberger recently) or elect to have it repaired, where the tear is sewn back together. The repair simply takes longer to heal, but the long-term results, when it works, are better. Anderson has elected for the repair and will have surgery soon. With a low-end return of eight weeks, it’s possible we see him back this season, but it’s unlikely. That means Devontae Booker is the lead back now in Denver.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo (strained hamstring)
Mike Gillislee, Buffalo (bruised foot)
As expected, the Buffalo Bills are back in the same position as last week. McCoy has a hamstring strain, but is pushing to play. If he does, he’s at an elevated risk of recurrence. Then again, the recurrence he had last week really didn’t set him back that much at all, so they’ll have to factor that, the matchup against the New England Patriots, and where Gillislee is on Sunday as well. At best, McCoy is going to be a game time decision and even if the Bills rule him out, we’re probably not going to know before Sunday morning.
As for Gillislee, he subbed in for McCoy after his injury, but has some durability questions of his own. While he’s been good as a change of pace, Gillislee’s foot injury shows that being exposed more might end up being costly for Gillislee. His down performance last week is largely the result of that foot issue, so if he can get back to full practice on Friday and if McCoy doesn’t play, Gillislee still has to face a tough defensive front. It’s not the best situation all around and one we won’t know until inactives come out. (Reminder: I’ll be doing a Facebook Live chat about this situation and all the last minute injury questions at noon Eastern on Sunday.)
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay (illness)
Montgomery’s hybrid position might be coming to an end. With Knile Davis more into the playbook after a week and Montgomery dealing with both soreness and illness this week, Montgomery will, at best, be a change-of-pace back rather than a pseudo-feature out of necessity. While Montgomery will play at both spots this week, he’ll be more back in his normal role, which could limit opportunities. The interesting question raised by this is whether there will be something along these lines tested by other teams, creating new formations and opportunities for matchup creation. Montgomery may be remembered as the first of his kind before long.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta (bruised hip)
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta (strained hamstring)
The non-contact jersey, no matter what color it is, is one of those things that’s more like a red flag. Everyone notices. When Freeman showed up Wednesday in the Falcons version of non-contact red, there was some worry. The story out of Atlanta is that Freeman is simply banged up, with a bruised hip the most concerning. Keeping him from taking any more contact was the smart play, but they’re not only planning on him starting Sunday, but trying to figure out how to protect him more. Players resist pads, as I wrote about on Wednesday, but they also avoid pain most of the time. Look for Freeman to play normally on Sunday, but that they’ll sub him out some as they can. That could mean some action for Terron Ward, just activated, or for more four-wide looks for Matt Ryan.
What we won’t see this week is any action by Coleman. The speed half of this running back committee is going to need at least another week with his hamstring strain. There’s some slight concern that this injury, coming just after the trip to Atlanta, may have some connection with his sickle cell issue, but Coleman has long had a history of leg issues. They’re planning to be conservative with him, so this week is out and they’ll play it going forward depending on how Coleman responds to treatment.
Jordan Reed, Washington (concussion)
Josh Norman, Washington (concussion)
London flights pushed the schedule for Reed and Norman to receive their final clearance to play after concussions, as per the NFL protocol. The final step is examination by an independent neurologist, who signs off that there are no symptoms. (What that actually means is a column for another day, but it varies widely.) There’s some confusion over whether Reed has just been cleared to travel — which is an issue after concussions, because of the pressure changes — or whether he’s been fully cleared. The NFL does have an independent neurologist in London, so either way, Reed’s situation could change. We probably won’t get much clarity before game time.
The situation is much the same for Norman. His concussion last week has cleared up and while he hasn’t been fully cleared, he will travel and is expected to play on Sunday. Given his likely matchup with A.J. Green, one of the top receivers in the league, his availability is a major question mark for Washington ahead of the game. Again, we likely won’t get much guidance until Sunday morning. Given how early that is, it’s problematic.
Bumps & bruises:
Carson Palmer had cramps, not a hamstring strain, according to multiple reports. He’s not a mobile quarterback, so he’d have likely played through a low-grade strain regardless. … The Browns have confirmed that Josh McCown has been cleared after his fractured collarbone and will start this week. … Lamar Miller is back at practice on Thursday after missing some time with a shoulder bruise. He should play normally when the Texans get back on the field. … Jerrick McKinnon is still in a walking boot as of Thursday. He does have the extra day, but it’s going to be tight to get him back in time for even Monday night. … Matt Jones is hurt on top of his fumbling issues. Jones’ sore knee means Chris Thompson is likely to see more work. … Theo Riddick seems ahead of Dwayne Washington in terms of their rehab right now. Riddick has a good chance to play Sunday, but make sure on Sunday morning. … Jamaal Charles is still limited in practice by the swelling in his knee. While he is expected to play against the Colts, how much he’ll play remains a huge question. … Donte Moncrief is expected to get final clearance to return on Friday. He’ll play, but just how much remains to be seen. If he’s available, he could be limited in plays and situation, though it could hurt Jack Doyle’s targets some. … Hunter Henry is expected to be cleared from the concussion protocol by this weekend’s game. He should slot back in alongside Antonio Gates for San Diego.