Week 13 odds are littered with more injury concerns, but the Packers at Bears game is the toughest to handicap with each team’s quarterback apparently going to try and give it a go. Despite playoff chances already being dashed, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Fields are practicing and in line to start this week. Let’s get into some notable NFL Week 13 injuries affecting betting markets.
NFL Week 13 Injuries
Will Carroll has covered injuries in sports for more than 20 years, working at places like ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Football Outsiders, and FanDuel. He’s written four books, including the upcoming “The Science of Football” and consults with several pro teams. He is currently the Director of Bioanalytics for Northstarr, a sports science startup company.
AARON RODGERS, QB PACKERS (fractured thumb/fractured rib)
Aaron Rodgers is transparent, at least. He might be on a vision quest or have a conspiracy theory, but he’ll tell you when his thumb is broken or his rib is injured. Ok, maybe he won’t tell you the whole truth – that his thumb is an avulsion fracture or that his rib has a non-displaced fracture of an upper (nearer the top or the collarbone) rib, but do we expect all the details, especially the ones that don’t make him look like a modern day cowboy?
On the thumb, Rodgers’ avulsion fracture is not what most people think of when they hear “broken thumb.” An avulsion is when a ligament or tendon pulls away a piece of bone, rather than the bone itself having a running defect through it. It can be more affective, especially if the tendon pulled completely away. Grip strength hasn’t appeared to be an issue, given his throws and being seen landing on his hands, so it seems the medical staff has the injury at least static, if not healing.
On the ribs, that’s a pain tolerance issue, not one of safety. He could wear more advanced rib pads – and should, and should have before, like every player – and could take a pain killing injection to help with comfort. Not taking hits would help, but that’s not really in the job description.
There’s no reason to think Rodgers, even with the ribs, is in danger of not playing or having it change his game much. There’s some risk he gets hit and comes out, as last week, especially if the game isn’t close or if he’s simply not effective. I don’t think these injuries should shift the line any more, or affect what props you might play in the game. If you ignore the NFL Week 13 injuries to Rodgers, it might be the smartest way to play him this week.
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JUSTIN FIELDS, QB BEARS (sprained shoulder)
The Bears initially said that Justin Fields had a dislocated shoulder. Even on the non-throwing side, that’s a painful and problematic injury for a quarterback, let alone one that’s taking hits the way Fields is this season. It’s a lot, and I watched Andrew Luck’s whole career up close. However, the injury is actually a separated shoulder (AC sprain), which is still problematic, but not nearly as painful or lingering.
Fields is practicing at the start of the week, but the issue isn’t going to be running or throwing, it’s that whole getting hit and falling down thing, which is inevitably going to happen. Even the best protected quarterback isn’t going to have a zero-touch game. For Fields, that’s even less likely and with each hit, each fall, each time he goes to ground, there’s an increased likelihood that he hurts that shoulder. While it can be protected somewhat with a harness, it isn’t going to reduce the forces he takes. Also, anyone who says “oh it’s his non-throwing shoulder, no big deal” doesn’t understand the biomechanics. Go try and throw a football without moving your non-throwing shoulder.
While Fields is better than he was last week, is it enough and how much risk are the Bears willing to take on with a young, improving quarterback? I can’t imagine they’ll want to take much, so there’s a likelihood he either doesn’t play or has a short leash. With the latter, I can’t imagine they’d play him at all if they’re thinking “oh we’ll just take him out if needed.” If he plays, I think he’ll have to be at or near 100 percent otherwise. I’ll take the under on his pass and rush totals, an under on their points, and see if he plays at all.
DARNELL MOONEY, WR BEARS (sprained ankle)
Another season-ender among NFL Week 13 injuries. As if the injury to Justin Fields doesn’t confuse things enough, Darnell Mooney is now done for the season after ankle surgery. He had a significant sprain that needed reconstruction, which ends his breakout season, but should put him in position to return as the base of a Bears offense for next season. One hopes that they’ll focus on blocking for Fields, but having Mooney and what appears to be a deep receiver corps is a nice start.
That deep receiver corps will be down without Mooney, but between Chase Claypool, Equanemious St Brown, and the rest, Fields (or Trevor Siemian) should have plenty of targets, along with Cole Kmet and the running backs. With that depth, you’d think the Bears would be better offensively, but even healthy, it’s only flashes so far.
Expect the targets to get distributed widely, though St. Brown might get more of the target share, especially if Fields is back. It’s not going to help totals to be sure and the under looks nice this week regardless of Fields’ status.
JOSH JACOBS, RB RAIDERS (strained calf)
Adrenaline is a heck of a drug. Josh Jacobs put up a huge day for the Raiders, going over 300 yards total, but did it on a bad leg. He’d been dealing with a calf strain heading into the game and afterwards, he had clearly done more damage to it while playing really well. It’s unclear when it happened, but it puts Jacobs in a risky position for Week 13.
The Raiders medical staff will monitor him closely, but I think they may have to protect Jacobs from himself if they’ve seen a significant tearing, especially if it’s at the same location as previous, which was just above the Achilles tendon. That’s an especially dangerous place for someone with the drive power of Jacobs, given the small area of the muscle and danger of an Achilles involvement. While that is easily repairable now, it’s not an easy process and one the team and player will work to avoid.
One other thing to keep in mind here – the Raiders are for sale, at least in part. Mark Davis has been negotiating with a group to sell a portion, perhaps with a right to buy a majority stake later. While one player won’t move a franchise value, things like getting into the playoffs do, as well as future value if they think they have a building franchise at the right long term coach and front office.
Jacobs showed just how big he can go last week and the Raiders functionally go through him. Derek Carr will be asked to do more and he hasn’t done that well, even with Jacobs and Davante Adams as weapons. The line will shift hard to the Chargers if/when Jacobs is ruled out with the Raiders needing to move to a passing attack. That changes props, but all of the moves are negative for the Raiders.
TRAVIS ETIENNE, RB JAGUARS (sprained foot)
Travis Etienne missed all of ’21 with a Lisfranc injury, so seeing him sidelined early in Week 12 with an injury to the same foot had Jags fans (and front office) worried. It turns out the medical staff was simply being cautious, perhaps overcautious, but given Etienne’s history, finding out that he could have played more isn’t that big a deal. Keeping him healthy in the long term is as the Jaguars attempt to trend upwards in a down division.
Etienne’s injury is said to be a minor sprain by the Jags, with imaging showing no other major issues aside from some bruising. That puts Etienne on track to play this weekend, but the conservatism and guarding isn’t going to change, so this might be a situation where 90 percent isn’t enough and that regardless, the Jags are likely to share more carries. Another likely scenario is getting Etienne in open space, where he is less likely to need a hard push against a pile or to get stepped on.
Another complication is that the Jags will be playing on the Detroit turf. Expect Etienne to be on a play count and be put in for plays where they can have more control over what he does. Props will be all hard under here and may force Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson to throw more. The Lions-Jags matchup could end up a shootout between Lawrence and Jared Goff, oddly enough, so Etienne’s absence may not affect much in a game where throw totals and the over look nice.
ELIJAH MITCHELL, RB 49ERS (sprained knee)
CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, RB 49ERS (inflamed knee)
Bringing in Christian McCaffrey comes with risks, but the 49ers believed they could mitigate some of this risk and maximize McCaffrey by using him smartly (or at least, less.) That’s a bit counterintuitive, especially considering the Niners have had a hard time keeping pretty much all their other backs healthy over the past couple years, this despite a solid sports med and sports science team supporting them. After letting some of them go and trading some away, the Niners had McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell, with Mitchell coming back from a sprained MCL. It worked for a couple weeks, but a new, more severe sprain has ended Mitchell’s season and leaves the Niners exactly where they said they didn’t want to be.
Mitchell’s MCL sprain is severe and will likely need surgery. He should be able to come back fine next year, but that leaves McCaffrey with almost nothing behind him and a swollen knee that he’s managing. Jordan Mason is the likely next-up, though it’s a bit surprising that the Niners didn’t kick the tires on someone like Melvin Gordon. The worry is that McCaffrey will now have to be exposed and used more heavily, which exposes him to more injury risk as the Niners are headed towards the playoffs.
It’s hard to look at trends for the Niners, since they’re really a different team post-trade. Even with McCaffrey taking a full load, I think they’ll try to keep his touches low or at least his high impact touches. I think his yardage prop his high and I actually don’t like many of the numbers on the Niners side this week. There’s just too much uncertainty about how the Niners will play it and it could change significantly with the game script.
AARON DONALD, DL RAMS (high ankle sprain)
If the Rams sold it all for the ring last year, they’d likely make that trade again, but I doubt they thought the fall would come this quick. Losing so many players to injury has been the key and now losing Aaron Donald makes it even worse. It’s another leg injury – a high ankle sprain – but this one can’t be blamed on the SoFi turf. (Bet the finance company didn’t expect that kind of exposure when they paid for the naming rights!) Donald is likely to miss time and with the season going as it is, it’s unclear if they’ll push to bring him back at anything less than 100 percent.
Donald came very close to retiring last year and came back late. I dont think there’s any reason to think that flirtation caused him problems, since he played well all year and a high ankle sprain is functionally traumatic. If this is all luck balancing, it’s extreme even for that, if you believe. Donald shouldn’t have any long term consequences and a return isn’t impossible. There’s just no reason to push or rush it with such a talented player.
Donald’s absence is another chip-away at the Rams once-vaunted defense. It hasn’t played well this year and as it loses pieces, it’s not getting any better. At 2-8-1 ATS, this isn’t a defense that can be trusted any more. Looking ahead, the overs might be tough as they inflate and things like sack totals might be lagging. It’s tough to find anything good about the Donald injury, for the Rams, for football, or for bettors.
This could more more than just another one of the NFL Week 13 injuries, with the Rams having so little to play for. They could shut Donald down.
Quick Hits: NFL Week 13 Injuries
Among NFL Week 13 injuries, Matthew Stafford is unlikely to play with the concussion and neck issue. We’ll see whether they slow-play his return after the concussion clears given multiple instances and the Rams’ context … Things are looking good for Raheem Mostert to play this weekend, but expect a split all around with Jeff Wilson … Tests on Najee Harris show a minor abdominal strain, but those can be very painful. The Steelers will watch this one over the next couple days, but it’s almost assured they’ll dial him back some next week, if he’s able to play … Joe Mixon should clear the concussion protocol ahead of this weekend’s games. He could see some expanded practice time as well … Jakobi Myers is likely to play Thursday, but there’s even more likely to be a play count and reduced role when he does … Ja’Marr Chase is expected to play against the Chiefs and a source tells me “play fully” is the key. Is it crazy to say 53 seems low on the over? … I have no idea what happened with Odell Beckham Jr on that plane, or how that might affect his meetings with teams. His off-field issues and difficulties with teams are well known, so it’s likely to be much more about whether his knee is close to 100 percent and if there’s some future value in a deal that can be made. Do not expect him to play before Week 15 at the earliest… Lots of movement in the Cards receiver room – Rondale Moore should be back from his groin, Marquise Brown should be off the IR, and Greg Dortsch is sidelined with a thumb sprain … Allen Robinson’s foot surgery ends his season and Cooper Kupp is likely done as well. Tutu Atwell becomes an interesting name, assuming Matthew Stafford comes back … Jameson Williams won’t be activated this week, per Dan Campbell, so Week 14 it is for his return from an ACL reconstruction. Too bad given the Lions may be in a high scoring, deep throwing shoot out where Williams might excel … A high ankle sprain for Tristan Wirfs will have him out a couple weeks, though it’s his inside ankle. Has Tom Brady not suffered enough this year, lord? … Von Miller will have his lateral meniscus tear re-evaluated next week. The hope is he can delay surgery until after the season. If he needs it next week, his season is likely done … Chase Young remains limited in practice as he returns from his ACL reconstruction. He needs that, per Ron Rivera, before he’ll make his season debut … CJ Gardner-Johnson has a lacerated kidney, an injury Eagles fans will remember from Zach Ertz a couple seasons ago. This is an increasingly common and serious injury, which points to the need for better padding in the area. It exists and should be required, especially at lower levels.
Best of luck handicapping NFL Week 13 injuries.