This year more than ever it seems like some of the best players in the game are battling injuries heading into the playoffs. In 2017 there were a multitude of season-ending injuries, but this year there are countless players returning from significant injuries late in the season. Here’s a look at some of the injuries that could have a huge impact on which teams advance.
*HPF = Health Performance Factor (Inside Injuries’ predictor of performance based on any current health concerns)
Melvin Gordon RB, Chargers
Overall Injury Risk: High – 29%
HPF: Below Average – 44%
Gordon deemed himself good to go for the Wild Card game, but Inside Injuries isn’t so confident in his ability to play through his ankle injury. Just as Gordon got over the MCL sprain that sidelined him for a month, he left late in the week 17 game with an ankle injury. Even a mild sprain comes with a two week Optimal Recovery Time, so he isn’t going to be healthy. The Chargers should spread the ball around to ensure that they don’t overwork Gordon. Giving Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson more touches will help him make it to the end of the game. Even if he does, the Below Average HPF is an indication that he won’t be able to perform at a high level.
T.Y. Hilton WR, Colts
Overall Injury Risk: High – 24%
HPF: Above Average – 78%
Hilton always seems to be battling some sort of injury, and his current ankle sprain is more severe than most. Still, he has been playing very well through the injury over the past month. He enters the first round of the playoffs a High Injury Risk, but with a 78% HPF, he is right on the edge of passing into the Peak category. That is a sign that once again he should put up solid numbers despite the injury. With the exception of Andrew Luck’s incredible comeback this season, there’s no player more impactful on this Colts team than Hilton. They need him on the field if they are going to take down the Texans.
Nick Foles QB, Eagles
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 13%
HPF: Below Average – 57%
For the second straight season Foles has been thrust into the spotlight due to a Carson Wentz injury. Wentz is battling a significant back fracture that he is unlikely to return from, even if the Eagles make a deep playoff run. Unfortunately Foles now has an injury of his own to deal with. Foles suffered a mild chest injury in week 16 then left the week 17 game after aggravating it. X-rays confirmed no fractures, although bruised ribs are still very painful to play through. He’s going to get the start, but after every hit it’s going to be tough to get back up. It’s all about pain management on Sunday. The positive is the Optimal Recovery Time is a short two weeks, so if the Eagles advance Foles should show significant improvement ahead of their next game.
Todd Gurley RB, Rams
Overall Injury Risk: Low – 11%
HPF: Peak – 84%
After missing the final two games of the regular season, Gurley has yet another week to rest and allow his knee to recover. There is nothing structurally wrong, but other injuries such as inflammation and tendinitis often needs weeks to fully heal. The good news here is that his Overall Risk of Injury has improved significantly, and our algorithm has a favorable outlook for Gurley when the Rams play again next week.
Keke Coutee WR, Texans
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 14%
HPF: Peak – 82%
If it feels like it’s been forever since we saw Keke Coutee take the field, that’s because it has. Coutee has made an appearance in just 6 games this season, and he hasn’t played since his latest hamstring injury in week 12. Coutee’s hamstring problems started in the spring, lingered into the preseason and then flared up multiple times during the season. A hamstring strain is one of the hardest injuries to fully recover from. Often a player can get back to 90%, but getting to 100% is a major challenge. With nearly two months off, Coutee should be very close and he has hit his Optimal Recovery Time. There’s always going to be some risk when he takes the field, but heading into Wild Card weekend he should be considered a boom-or-bust guy.
Hunter Henry TE, Chargers
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 16%
HPF: Peak – 87%
An offseason ACL tear forced Henry to miss all of the regular season. Now nearly 8 months removed from surgery, he has a shot at returning to the Chargers. It’s important to keep expectations in check when a player is recovering from such a serious injury, but his return could provide a nice boost. Henry has been practicing over the last few weeks, and the door is open for him to play this weekend. At this point his knee should be very close to fully healed, but the rest of his body may not be ready for an NFL game. We often see players suffer other injuries such as a hamstring strain or ankle sprain as they overcompensate for the original injury. If Henry does take the field, expect him to be on a strict snap count and used only in certain situations.
Overall Injury Risk: Low – 8%
HPF: Peak – 86%
Miller admitted that he hasn’t been 100% all season. That shouldn’t come as a surprise after he appeared to dislocate his shoulder in week 3. We have said all along that offseason surgery could be in his future to address significant damage caused by the dislocation. The only real surprise is that it took until week 17 for him to dislocate his shoulder again. Miller is practicing this week and will play against the Eagles. His numbers actually look pretty solid – as long as he can stay on the field he should play well.
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 23%
HPF: Above Average – 65%
Robinson is on track to play this weekend after missing week 17 with bruised ribs. This injury is all about pain management, but he should be out there after practicing in full this week.
Overall Injury Risk: High – 24%
HPF: Above Average – 77%
Despite battling an ankle injury in recent weeks, there has never been much concern about his availability. Even at less than 100% he can still perform at a very high level, and the Texans are going to need him if they are going to advance. His Overall Injury Risk will remain a concern throughout the playoffs, but expect him to play well as long as he isn’t forced out of a game.
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 18%
HPF: Peak – 83%
Baldwin hasn’t been healthy all year, and things are no different entering the playoffs. Baldwin had knee problems starting in the preseason (I suspect a meniscus tear) that continue to flare up, and his groin, hip and shoulder have also been a concern. Don’t be surprised if one of these injuries is aggravated.
Overall Injury Risk: Elevated – 21%
HPF: Below Average – 48%
Ekeler is expected to suit up on Sunday despite battling a groin injury. He was limited at practice both Wednesday and Thursday. Ekeler has had a tough time staying healthy in recent weeks, fighting to recover from a recurring stinger/neck injury and a concussion to go along with an ankle injury. He isn’t healthy, and our algorithm is projecting that it will have an impact on his performance.