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Injury Aftermath: Divisional Round

by Andrew Potter

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (3:05 p.m. EST, FOX)

Though running back Todd Gurley did start the playoff victory over the Cowboys after missing the end of the regular season with a knee injury, he ceded significant work during the game to ostensible backup C.J. Anderson. Anderson led the Rams in carries, while Gurley appeared to be playing mainly a third-down role for portions of the game, but it is not clear whether that was specifically for maintenance reasons or simply because Anderson was also effective as a runner. Either way, Gurley's knee appears to be fine, and his status for the NFC Championship Game appears to be in no doubt. The only player who appeared on the team's final injury report prior to the divisional round, defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, played the full game against the Cowboys. Cornerback Aqib Talib was evaluated for concussion symptoms during that game, but Talib was cleared to return and is expected to be available in New Orleans.

Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins suffered by far the worst injury on any of the advancing teams: Rankins ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season. The injury will require surgery and, occurring this late in the season, will probably cause him to miss a significant portion of the team's offseason program. Rankins has a chance to be ready in time for the start of the regular season, but that would require a very smooth and quick rehab; he is a candidate to begin the season with a Reserve (Physically Unable to Perform) designation. Rankins' spot on the interior of the defensive line is likely to be filled by three-year veteran David Onyemata, who has played as a rotational interior lineman in all 48 regular-season games for the Saints over the past three seasons. The Saints have no other injuries that are currently expected to affect this week's practice or game roster.

New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (6:40 p.m. EST, CBS)

The only limited practice participant for the Patriots ahead of their victory over the Chargers was defensive end Deatrich Wise, who is battling an ankle injury. Wise was inactive for the contest after participating in every game during the regular season. It is not yet clear whether he will be available in Kansas City. Wise was the only Patriots player on the final injury report of the week, and the team is not believed to have suffered any new injuries during the game.

The Chiefs have the most injury concerns of any of the remaining teams. Star safety Eric Berry has been attempting to return from his heel injury for several months now, but Berry was once again inactive against the Colts. Running back Spencer Ware, who took over as the Chiefs' starter following the release of Kareem Hunt, injured his hamstring in his second start of the season and has not played since. Ware was also inactive this past weekend. The good news is that the team hopes to have both players available against the Patriots. The bad news is that they hoped to have both available against the Colts, too. Receiver Sammy Watkins was able to return in the divisional round, recording six receptions for 62 yards; he suffered no setback, and should be fine to play against New England. The other two players who were inactive due to injuries -- long-term absentee offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and linebacker Dorian O'Daniel -- are considered "day to day," and both have a chance to play on Sunday night. As with the Patriots, the Chiefs have no new injury concerns from last weekend's game.

Other Major Injuries

Eagles guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles against the Saints, and has the same prognosis as described above for Sheldon Rankins.

Comments

4 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2019, 5:59am

1 Re: Injury Aftermath: Divisional Round

For KC, Berry and Ware aren't huge concerns - Ware because the Williams duo filling in for him and Hunt have been performing so well, and Berry because he's been missing so long there's no adjustment needed. Berry did play a bit in late season games, an entire half in their second LAC game - but he was an obvious weak link and was pulled after the first half. Of course we'd expect him to be an asset if healthy but he simply hasn't been all season.

Hunt's absence is relevant, though, in that he played in the regular season KC/NE game. He had 105 yds receiving and 80 rushing (on 10 attempts) - not injury related but still a key missing element. IMHO the Williams boys are more effective than Ware anyway. Hunt not so much.

2 Re: Injury Aftermath: Divisional Round

as a Chiefs fan, I'd rather have Hunt than Watkins (from a football perspective, I support cutting Hunt for non-football reasons). But the drop-off from Hunt to Williams is far less than Watkins to Conley. The offense will be better with Williams and Watkins than it would have been with Hunt and Conley.