Let’s lead off with what happened last week. I had information early that the Josh Allen injury was a UCL sprain, as well as other issues with his throwing elbow. Later in the week, I wrote in this column a trusted source with direct knowledge of the situation told me Allen was not going to play against the Vikings.
Should I have hedged and said he probably would not play or that he was unlikely to play? Probably. I regret that I didn’t have the right outcome, but I do not regret that I shared the medical information I had on the injury.
For those of you that read this column, I hope that you trust in my information and that I’m right far more than I’m wrong. In the cases where I am wrong, I’ll admit it and work to be transparent and better next time. Now, let’s get to the latest analysis of his sprain after he played and other notable Week 11 injuries.
What’s Next With JOSH ALLEN Injury?
All reported information is that Josh Allen came to practice on Friday, after my report, and managed to convince both the coaching and medical staff that his elbow was not an issue.
He played and was part of one of the more dramatic games of this or any year. There were clear signs he wasn’t 100% with both the data and the look of his throws, plus continuing questions about his grip, especially on the late fumble. There’s no sign that Allen made his elbow worse by playing. That wasn’t the risk. So another week of rest and therapy should help.
That means the Josh Allen injury should be fine, and the Bills should be relatively normal. The forecast might cause problems. A blizzard is hitting Buffalo. Cold shouldn’t affect Allen’s elbow but could affect his grip.
Interestingly, Allen gave a lot of credit to the medical staff and specifically called out spending a lot of time in a hyperbaric chamber for his quick progress from Monday to Friday. I’m always a bit dubious on these, but even if it’s placebo, it worked.
I’m treating Allen this week as if he’s his usual self, which puts the Bills in a good spot, pending the snow. Keep in mind that if this game has a change of venue, all previous bets at your sportsbook are likely void with new lines set for the new location.
Prop Finder Tool
Let’s dive into what is actually going on with his elbow, along with some other notable NFL Week 10 injuries. As always, use our Prop Finder Tool below in order to bet the best available odds on markets related to these injuries. Just search by team or player name.
Other Notable NFL Week 11 Injuries
- Will Carroll has covered injuries in sports for more than 20 years. He’s written four books, including his latest entitled “The Science of Football”. He also consults with several pro teams. He is currently the Director of Bioanalytics for Northstarr, a sports science startup company.
MATTHEW STAFFORD, QB RAMS (concussion)
Matthew Stafford’s situation was a reminder that no one, including the NFL, is too clear on what the concussion protocol is or isn’t now. The protocol is there to protect players and teams, so the five-step days should be hard and fast. But what’s a day? Is the concussion day one or day zero? The Rams couldn’t get Stafford through, though they said they could have changed their Saturday walk through to do it if they thought that was the best course. He sat out, the team lost a key player (see below), and now, Stafford should be back, but to what?
While Stafford didn’t make it back through the protocol and as yet hasn’t, that latter part is likely just the “why bother” rather than a sign. As I write this Wednesday afternoon, he has not cleared, but could have that one full practice and then be cleared at any point ahead of Sunday. The opacity of how and when is still something of an issue for those of us outside, but there’s no reason to expect Stafford won’t clear and be back under center.
However, replacing Cooper Kupp isn’t going to come easy and with the season fading away, the Rams aren’t likely to go big dollar for someone like Odell Beckham who isn’t a direct replacement, but nonetheless a talent. I’d expect numbers to be down for Stafford and the Rams offense, perhaps even running more with the positive signs from Kyren Williams. The lower over seems about the right spot, but I don’t have enough certainty in the offense to feel confident in a cover.
COOPER KUPP, WR RAMS (high ankle sprain)
Cooper Kupp is one of the most improbably great players in the NFL. It’s one thing to see the Tom Brady Combine photo and say “best sixth round pick ever”, but Kupp went to a smaller college, dominated at the Senior Bowl to move up, and despite his measurables, he was a smart third round pick. Even then, not many took notice. All Kupp did was figure out how to dominate his position in a different way, redefining the position in a way not seen since Tom Brady and Wes Welker seemingly invented the bubble screen. Kupp isn’t the biggest, the fastest, or the anything-est, but he’s surgically effective. That’s why the recurrent ankle injuries are so interesting. For a player not reliant on speed or physicality, how will he be affected by a relatively new and uncommon surgical procedure?
The “tightrope” procedure is new in the NFL – Tua Tagovailoa had both legs repaired while in college – but it’s not new. It’s regularly seen in European sports, where there just seems to be an earlier adoption curve. You can see details in this video, but basically two kevlar “ropes” protect the repaired ligament while it heals. There’s almost no risk of over stressing the ligament earlier, or need to wait for a reconstructed joint to anchor and heal. It’s weeks instead of months, with six to eight weeks normally quoted. That puts Kupp on the edge of “season ending” and in all likelihood, the Rams won’t take any chances.
The offense without Kupp is a problem. In theory, Ben Skowronek should be the same kind of receiver, but anyone who’s watched football over the last couple seasons knows that’s not a one for one swap. Skowronek is likely to see a volume jump, but the rest of the offense has been a mess and losing a key talent isn’t going to help. The team may have to go for more deep balls, given their receiver mix and lack of run game. That can hit big, or go for naught so there’s a wide range. Getting four points and a sub-40 under all tell you what Vegas thinks of the offense (and they’re likely right.)
KYLER MURRAY, QB CARDINALS (strained hamstring)
Kyler Murray warmed up with coaches and medical staff on Sunday, but it was quickly seen that his hamstring wasn’t going to allow him to play. There was a clear guarding limp and a reluctance to make certain moves. The shift to Colt McCoy was planned and quick, and he played well enough to get the win. However, it’s clear that the Cardinals offense needs someone with even more mobility and that Murray is purpose built for this, even when he can be frustrating.
Mobile quarterbacks like Murray aren’t more likely to be injured, if you look at the data, though there’s certainly an argument to be made that given there are more of this type now than the rare Vicks and Cunningham’s of the past, we simply don’t see a big uptick. Big hits are big hits, in the pocket or running. We don’t see a lot of leg issues for mobile quarterbacks either, so a hamstring strain like this isn’t serious, but also doesn’t have to be that serious to keep Murray out due to both protecting the injury and losing effectiveness from impaired mobility.
Murray should be back this week, but we will know by Friday given how he practices. The Cards will have to be protective of it and if he’s at less than 100 percent, McCoy is a known both for the offense and the offenses production. It’s less than Murray and has to be factored in to any model, but if Murray is back, going back to the standard and assuming normal production is also smart.
ZACH ERTZ, TE CARDINALS (sprained knee)
We don’t yet have all the details on Zach Ertz’s knee injury. He was seen by team doctors and told surgery was needed, which would end his season. Ertz is said to be seeking more opinions, so there’s no timeline on that and when we’ll know if those also suggest surgery. With only a few weeks left in the season, a six to eight week injury becomes potentially season ending and that’s where Ertz is.
The assumption is that there’s ACL involvement, but my question is whether this is an incomplete tearing where rest and rehab rather than surgery could be an option. Of course, there are repair options, ones that could have him back well before the standard timeline and I’d think Ertz would be an excellent candidate for one of these types of procedures, especially on an incomplete tear.
With an ACL, a standard reconstruction could cost him a year, with six to nine months recovery putting the start of next season in some jeopardy for the 32-year-old. The Cards will have to go down the depth chart, but they’re getting healthier and Rondale Moore is becoming a Kupp-like volume receiver. The loss of Ertz will be toughest in the red zone, but they have big receivers like DeAndre Hopkins available for that role. I don’t believe this will cost the Cards much in points, especially once Kyler Murray is back.
This is also another data point about turf and about the SoFi turf in particular. We have a pretty small sample size with it, though the double-usage gives us a bit more data. There have been more and more calls to “just put in grass” and while that’s simple, I’m not sure that’s the best. These stadiums weren’t designed for it and bad grass isn’t a good fix
JUSTIN HERBERT, QB CHARGERS (no injury)
The vagaries of concussions, and of the concussion protocol, are tough to get sometimes, but just because you see a big hit – and Justin Herbert got crushed – doesn’t mean that a concussion happened. He was checked, passed, and returned to the game. I’m told he was checked again after the game and had no symptoms. Teams are a bit twitchy post-Tagovailoa with concussions, but assuming that doctors missed something just because you saw a replay is usually wrong.
Herbert was shut out in the second half, after returning, but Next Gen stats showed that Herbert didn’t have any physical deficits. We don’t yet have a good stat for how quickly he was processing receivers, but I’ll give this one to the Niners, who just shut down big plays (and with the absence of Keenan Allen, there was a dearth of big play opportunities.)
Expect Herbert to play normally, and to amp it up as he seemingly does against the Chiefs. It’s a high over, and a plus-6 for the Chargers. With a healthy Herbert, the Chargers and Chiefs have hit that 50.5 number in each of their last three outings. Give me the over and the passing props on both sides.
JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, WR CHIEFS (concussion)
Concussions are both complex and simple. They’re simple in that in most cases, players will progress through the steps of the protocol and come back with no short-term issues. It’s complex in that we never know what is “major” or even complicated until after. Its the response, not the symptoms, that define concussions. Major, knock out blows can result in no symptoms. Seemingly small hits can result in symptoms that can linger for even years.
With Mecole Hardman out last week, the Chiefs adjusted. Marquez Valdes-Scantling got a bigger load with Smith-Schuster out early, so if both are back for Week 11, MVS should slide down, but it seems that even with Smith-Schuster getting a better feel for the offense, there’s going to be more spread on the targets. Patrick Mahomes has his Travis Kelce, but he hasn’t locked in on a WR1 for Tyreek Hill, simply because no one has that skill set.
Once Smith-Schuster clears protocol, he should be considered normal and is likely to get full targets. He’s turning into a volume and YAC play, basically a smaller Travis Kelce in function, and that’s working with Andy Reid allowing his QB to find the openings and create mismatches with his legs and arms. I like the over, even at 50, and think Mahomes yardage props are looking nice this week against the Chargers.
MATT RYAN, QB COLTS (sprained shoulder)
Matt Ryan came back, resurrected by Jeff Saturday and his “do anything you want to win” mandate from Jim Irsay. My initial thought is that Ryan was used to ease the play calling burden on first-timer Parks Frazier, previously the assistant QB coach, but I’m told by several people close to the team that isn’t the case. Ryan’s shoulder was strong enough and Saturday saw enough in practice to go back to Ryan.
Remember though, Ryan isn’t fully healed up from the shoulder injury that took him out. He has some long term wear and tear, including some labrum fraying, plus the Grade II sprain suffered a couple weeks back. He healed enough to have his normal arm strength, per Next Gen, but there’s increased recurrence risk. That’s still going to be there for a couple more weeks and will be tested against a much better Eagles defense than the Raiders defense they just faced.
With Ryan back and Jonathan Taylor healthy, the Colts aren’t suddenly offensive juggernauts and facing the Eagles coming off a loss should be a reality check. I like the over, both on the Colts offense and an angry Eagles team, but I don’t like any of the Colts-side props. The return of Ryan won’t make the Eagles not put 7 and 8 in the box, making Taylor reliant on breaking a big play to get big yardage.
DALLAS GOEDERT, TE EAGLES (sprained shoulder)
I know that being a referee and catching every penalty is hard. I’ll acknowledge that even with replay, some are going to be missed. That’s why the NFL goes back and watches and in some cases fines players for particularly egregious or dangerous hits. But what do they do when a ref misses a call that leads to a player being injured and missing time? There’s no mechanism to make that right and if the best we can do is “Sorry, Dallas Goedert”, it’s not good enough.
Goedert was taken to ground awkwardly after the facemask grab, causing a shoulder sprain that will cost him a couple weeks. Goedert took over the key TE role last year after Zach Ertz was traded, in large part because the Philly brass thought Goedert was good enough. Now, with Goedert likely to miss at least a few weeks, they’re down the depth chart even more. The initial speculation is that Goedert has a severe AC sprain, though there may be associated soft tissue or labrum problems as well.
The Eagles simply don’t have a replacement at the ready on their depth chart. Jack Still isn’t going to be a big pass catcher, so rookie Grant Calcaterra and Tyree Jackson, if he comes off PUP, are more likely. Calcaterra hasn’t had a target yet, so he’s a complete unknown. I think it’s more likely they use Kenneth Gainwell more, even slotting him as an H-back type. The Eagles, no longer undefeated, are still very good and focused on Jalen Hurts’ abilities rather than the players around him. For my model, Goedert doesn’t move my model much over the next few weeks, especially this one heading into Indy.
Jameis Winston is healthy, in the sense that his ankle issue and back fractures have healed up. Is that enough to get his job back over Andy Dalton? Remains to be seen, which is telling on it’s own. Current reports have Dalton starting this week … PJ Walker won’t go on IR with his high ankle sprain, which gives us some insight into the timeline. Baker Mayfield gets the start with Sam Darnold backing up … Carson Wentz is expected to be cleared to play, but with Taylor Heinecke showing more, what will Ron Rivera do, or will he hope the medical staff provides another week of cover? … Leonard Fournette has a hip pointer. It’s painful, not serious, and the bye should be enough to have him back to playing shape … With the Ertz and Murray situations detailed above, the Cards might also get Marquise Brown (fractured foot) back as soon as Monday … Reports are that JaMarr Chase is still not off crutches and isn’t close to football activities. He’ll have to show some progress very soon to make his early December target … Odell Beckham Jr confirmed he’ll need a couple weeks to get into football shape. That he’s choosing to do it on his own rather than get with a team might be notable as well, with some suggestion he’s not at a stage where he could impress a team… No injury is good, but imaging on Jerry Jeudy’s ankle went about as well as could be expected. It’s likely he’ll be at practice early this week and puts himself in line to play as soon as Sunday …. TJ Watt was back but it was clear he was not comfortable with the harness he had to wear to protect his shoulder. We’ll see how long that stays on and if Watt gets more comfortable. He was still effective, just awkward… Chase Young is expected to be activated, a year post ACL/MCL surgery. A source tells me he’s been moving well, but that confidence in his knee will show once he gets back into games more.