Our attention now shifts exclusively to the teams that remain alive in the playoffs, with the exception of major injuries to eliminated teams.
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 1:05 p.m. EST)
The biggest problem area for the Colts is offensive tackle, where left tackle Anthony Castonzo has been ruled out for the season following surgery and backup Le'Raven Clark is also out for the year after tearing his Achilles. Right tackle Braden Smith returned from the Reserve/COVID list against the Jaguars, but backup Will Holden is out with an ankle injury. The team signed veteran Jared Veldheer as cover for J'Marcus Webb and Chaz Green, but that is not an attractive trio of options to play left tackle opposite Smith against Buffalo's strong pass rush. Receiver Michael Pittman was cleared to return from the concussion protocol against Jacksonville, but cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and safety Khari Willis both remain in the protocol following their injuries against the Steelers. Both have a chance to clear the protocol in time for Saturday. Backup halfback Jordan Wilkins missed Week 17 on the Reserve/COVID list with no public indication whether he is symptomatic, has a positive test, or is merely a close contact. Assuming the latter, he has a chance to be available against the Bills.
Bills cornerback Siran Neal was evaluated for a head injury, which is likely to land him in the league concussion protocol, but they otherwise suffered no new injuries. Receiver Cole Beasley missed the Dolphins game with a knee injury after not practicing at all during the build-up to the game, but he is considered week-to-week so there remains a possibility that he will play against the Colts. Practice participation during the week will tell us more about his likely status. Tight end Reggie Gilliam also did not practice last week due to a hamstring injury and he is also considered week-to-week, but he is unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to play against the Colts.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (Saturday, 4:40 p.m. EST)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff had thumb surgery last week, and he is unlikely to have recovered sufficiently from that to play against the Seahawks this Saturday. John Wolford, who completed 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception against the Cardinals in his NFL debut in Week 17, is very likely to start in Seattle. The team signed former Jaguars starter Blake Bortles as Wolford's backup. Halfback Darrell Henderson is on injured reserve following his Week 16 high-ankle sprain. Lead rusher Cam Akers returned from his own high-ankle sprain in Week 17, but he looked awful against Arizona. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has returned to practice from injured reserve and the team hopes to have him back this weekend, though he is likely to be listed as questionable at the start of the week. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd, who had been limited in practice with an abdominal injury, played against the Cardinals without any setback. The team activated linebacker Micah Kiser from injured reserve in Week 17, but that was a procedural move to enable him to play in the postseason. He did not practice nor play last week, and he is unlikely to return against the Seahawks.
Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed strained an oblique muscle against the 49ers, and Pete Carroll admitted that they won't know about his availability for Saturday afternoon until later in the week. Safety Jamal Adams has been playing through a right shoulder injury, and he injured his left shoulder in
Santa Clara Arizona. According to Carroll, early indications suggest Adams will be available against the Rams, but that is not yet certain. Halfback Rashaad Penny suffered through cramps, but that should not affect his status for the coming week. Carlos Hyde missed the game due to illness, which is unlikely to be a long-term issue. Tight end Greg Olsen could have played against the 49ers, but the team decided to keep him inactive to preserve him for the playoffs. Both guard Mike Iupati (stinger) and tackle Brandon Shell (COVID list) should return against the Rams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST)
Despite a panic-inducing injury against the Falcons, multiple reports have indicated that Mike Evans suffered no structural damage to his knee. Rather, the injury was a hyperextension, and he has a chance to be available in Washington. Practice participation reports will be more indicative of how likely Evans is to play. Cornerback Carlton Davis did not return from his groin injury against the Falcons, but there remains a chance that Davis will be available on Saturday night. Defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter was inactive against the Falcons due to a calf injury; he will likely need to return to full practice during the week to be considered for the game day roster.
Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and quarterback Alex Smith both returned to the active roster against the Eagles on Sunday night, meaning both should be available to play against the Buccaneers despite not being quite fully healthy. McLaurin is the more likely to be limited by his injury: high-ankle injuries are debilitating for receivers, who can take a long time to recover fully (see Michael Thomas of the Saints, still recovering from a high-ankle sprain suffered in Week 1). Halfback Antonio Gibson also played his second straight game despite a lingering toe injury, and he is likely to play against the Buccaneers. Linebackers Thomas Davis and Kevin Pierre-Louis both missed the game, however, with respective knee and ankle injuries. Fortunately, the team suffered no new injuries on Sunday night.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST)
Ravens edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue missed Week 17 with a thigh injury and cornerback Jimmy Smith missed the game with an AC joint sprain, but both have a strong chance to return against Tennessee. Center Patrick Mekari missed the game with a back injury, but they also hope to have him available for the playoffs. Receiver Willie Snead did not participate in practice due to his ankle injury, but he was listed as questionable so he has a chance to return if he can practice this week. Halfbacks Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram both played with no setbacks, as did cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Defensive end Calais Campbell was also a full participant in practice last week and should be fully recovered from his calf injury.
The only Titans players with injury designations ahead of Week 17 were backup halfback Khari Blasingame (ankle) and linebackers Daren Bates (hip) and Derick Roberson (hamstring). Of those, only Roberson was inactive against the Texans. That marked his second straight game missed following the injury he suffered against the Lions in Week 15, which fits our usual expected recovery timetable for hamstring injuries; he should have a chance to return against the Ravens.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST)
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith injured his elbow against the Packers, and receiver Darnell Mooney injured his ankle. Head coach Matt Nagy had no news on either player today, but he hopes to have an update on Wednesday. Defensive backs Jaylon Johnson, Deon Bush, and Buster Skrine were all inactive against the Packers in Week 17. Skrine remains in the league concussion protocol, which he has a chance to clear before the game against the Saints. Bush missed out due to a foot injury, but his practice participation ahead of Week 17 is a positive. Jaylon Johnson missed the game with a shoulder injury, but he was considered day-to-day and Nagy noted during the week that he is progressively getting better. He has a chance to return against the Saints.
Thanks to the league scheduling this game for Sunday, the Saints are confident that halfback Alvin Kamara will return from the Reserve/COVID list in time to face the Bears. Fellow halfbacks Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington, fullback Michael Burton, and safeties C.J. Gardner-Johnson and D.J. Swearinger also missed the finale while on the COVID list. It is not public knowledge which of those five, if any, tested positive, and which were merely close contacts who have a chance to return against Chicago. Star receiver Michael Thomas has only played six further games out of a possible 15 since suffering a high-ankle sprain on opening day. The Saints placed him on injured reserve in mid-December to allow him to rest and recover in hopes that he will be healthy for the postseason. The team expects to have him active against Chicago. Safety Marcus Williams has not played since suffering a low-ankle sprain against the Chiefs in Week 15, and he did not practice or play in Week 17. Neither did tight end Josh Hill, who has an injured hand.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST)
Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon tore his Achilles against the Steelers in Week 17, an injury which will require surgery and rule him out for the rest of the season. At this point, his rehabilitation is likely to extend well into the 2021 regular season; if the pending free agent signs for a team during the offseason, he is likely to being 2021 on the Reserve (PUP) list. The 30-year-old had 9.0 sacks this season, which ranked second on the team to Myles Garrett and was his personal best tally since an 8.5-sack season with the Giants in 2016. Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones left Sunday's game with concussion symptoms and is likely to miss at least one game.
The Steelers suffered no significant injuries while resting several key starters against the Browns. Kicker Chris Boswell is rehabilitating a groin injury, but the team expects to have him back for the playoff game. Safety Terrell Edmunds missed the game with a shoulder injury, but we have no specifics on the injury's severity or his likely availability for this coming Sunday.
Green Bay lost left tackle David Bakhtiari on New Year's Eve to a torn ACL in practice, an injury that will require surgery and likely keep him out for the opening portion of the 2021 regular season. Their only other injury concerns from the active roster, edge rusher Kingsley Keke and guard Simon Stepaniak, should both be able to return to full practice following the team's bye.
Chiefs cornerback Deandre Baker broke his femur against the Chargers, ending his season in only his second appearance. He had surgery today to repair the fracture and has a chance to return for the start of the 2021 season. Kansas City sat as many important players as they could against the Chargers, including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, ailing receivers Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins (calf), injured offensive lineman Mike Remmers (back), and injured linebacker Ben Niemann (hamstring). Most if not all of those four should be available following the team's bye week. The most likely significant absentee is halfback Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who can more realistically target a prospective AFC Championship Game as the date for his possible return from a high-ankle sprain. Otherwise, the team also treated Week 17 mostly as a bye, meaning a lot of rest for veterans and anybody with any kind of injury complaint. The roster is therefore in better shape than the practice reports might suggest.