by Andrew Potter
The latest injury news from the wild-card round, as we look forward to the divisional playoffs.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, 4:35 p.m. EST, NBC)
Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton again did not practice prior to last weekend's game, but Hilton was still the most effective Colts receiver. Even if he does not practice this week, his status for the trip to Kansas City is not in doubt. Center Ryan Kelly and safety Clayton Geathers both returned as expected against the Texans, but both receiver Ryan Grant and defensive tackle Tyquan Lewis missed the game after being injured against the Titans in Week 17. Neither practiced at all last week, and the Colts signed Geneo Grissom to the active roster to add cover for Lewis. The important new injury is a calf strain to Mike Mitchell, who is likely to miss at least the game against Kansas City and a potential AFC championship trip to Los Angeles or New England; the severity of the strain will determine whether he has a chance to return if the Colts can make it to the Super Bowl. Fellow safety Malik Hooker left Sunday's game with a foot injury, but he was able to return later in the contest and is expected to be available as usual in Kansas City.
The Chiefs have the most injury questions of any of the bye week teams. Receiver Sammy Watkins has not played since injuring his foot in Week 11; safety Eric Berry has played only two games total (neither of which he finished) since rupturing his Achilles on opening night of the 2017 season; halfback Spencer Ware has not played since injuring his hamstring in Week 14; and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has still not been activated from injured reserve despite returning to practice prior to the end of the regular season. Coach Andy Reid has stated that all four are making progress, which bodes well for their status at the end of the week, but the former three are still considered questionable and Duvernay-Tardif will have no formal practice report until and unless he is activated from the reserve list. Though no formal announcement has been made to that effect, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi appears to have cleared the league concussion protocol based on media materials published this week (players are not permitted to speak to the media while in the concussion protocol). Linebacker Reggie Ragland also left the regular-season finale with a hip ailment, but his availability for the Divisional Round does not appear to be in doubt.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST, FOX)
The Cowboys entered Sunday's game with a relatively clean bill of health, missing only left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo from their starting lineup, but lost receiver Allen Hurns early to a nasty-looking ankle injury. Hurns received one piece of good news today: though his season is definitely over due to the open dislocation (the dislocation equivalent of a compound fracture), surprisingly no bones were fractured. He had surgery on the injury yesterday, and he should be able to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2019 preseason. Fellow receivers Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin are playing through ankle and groin injuries respectively, but both do hope to be available against the Rams. Even so, the Cowboys may activate Lance Lenoir from the practice squad in Hurns' stead. Tight end Blake Jarwin and defensive tackle Maliek Collins both have ankle injuries, and backup safety Darian Thompson has a groin injury that also kept him on the inactive list on Saturday night, but all are expected to practice early in the week in hopes of being available in Los Angeles.
Rams halfback Todd Gurley is expected to return from the knee injury that kept him out of the last two weeks of the regular season, and tackle Andrew Whitworth will also be available after a knee scare in the regular-season finale. Lamarcus Joyner will also return to a Rams side that is close to full health; Joyner's backup, safety Blake Countess, should clear the concussion protocol in time to face the Cowboys, and there appear to be no other significant injury doubts on the roster at this time.
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST, CBS)
Last week's note about Hunter Henry was slightly premature, but the receiving tight end was officially added to the active roster today ahead of the trip to New England. He is expected to play, though his snap count may be limited in his return from a torn ACL. Linebacker Jatavis Brown missed Sunday's game against the Ravens as expected with an injured ankle, but halfback Austin Ekeler was able to play despite a lingering groin injury. Halfback Melvin Gordon has been playing through an MCL sprain in his right knee; he left Baltimore with a matching pair after spraining his left MCL in the first half. Gordon was able to return, score a touchdown, and finish the game, but he was also visibly impeded by the injuries and wore a pair of knee braces in the second half. He is likely to at least attempt to play through the pain against the Patriots, but his practice status bears watching throughout the week. Finally, nose tackle Brandon Mebane missed the game against Baltimore on compassionate grounds; his return is entirely dependent on the health of his infant daughter, Makenna, who is in intensive care due to a rare genetic condition known as Patau Syndrome.
The Patriots come into the divisional round with one of their healthier playoff rosters: only tight ends Jacob Hollister and Dwayne Allen and safety Devin McCourty have any questions around their health and availability for Sunday's game. McCourty is in the league concussion protocol, but he is expected to clear that in plenty of time to face the Chargers. Allen continues to receive treatment for a knee injury, but he has been practicing as a limited participant. Only third-string tight end Hollister, whose hamstring injury has plagued him for most of the season, appears in danger of missing the game for health reasons. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss thinks it unlikely that Hollister will play at all during the postseason. If that becomes apparent enough that Hollister is placed on injured reserve, former Texans tight end Stephen Anderson is currently on the Patriots' practice squad and is next in line at the position. Head coach Bill Belichick expects to have return specialist and occasional gadget player Cordarrelle Patterson available as usual against the Chargers after the player missed Week 17 with a knee injury.
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST, FOX)
With Carson Wentz still sidelined by a stress fracture in his back, Nick Foles again started and won for the Eagles as they bested the Bears in Chicago. Foles' reward, in addition to a cool $1 million in bonuses, is another playoff start, this time in New Orleans. Though Nate Sudfeld will again be Foles' backup, Wentz continues to be retained on the active roster because "you never know," in the words of head coach Doug Pederson. Receiver Mike Wallace, who recently returned from a broken leg, is considered "day to day" at the beginning of this week, as is cornerback Sidney Jones. Guard Isaac Seumalo returned from his pectoral injury against the Bears with no ill effects, and he should be available against the Saints.
The Saints did not release an official practice report last week due to the bye, but media observers indicated that defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor did not participate in the session that was open to observation. Neither did offensive linemen Terron Armstead, Jermon Bushrod, Andrus Peat, and Larry Warford. Most observers believe that the absences were primarily for maintenance reasons, and all six players are expected to play against the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.