Week 14 odds took another dramatic turn off the look-ahead lines in some games where teams suffered injuries to important offensive pieces. The 49ers and Ravens both lost their quarterbacks, and the Seahawks’ offensive rookie of the year favorite went down with an injury too. What’s the latest on these NFL Week 14 injuries? What should bettors know?
Will 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 newly published “The Science of Football” and consults with several pro teams. Let’s dive into the injuries to these star players.Editor’s Note
Raiders at Rams (Thursday Night Football)
JOSH JACOBS, RB RAIDERS (strained calf/strained quad)
If only Josh Jacobs could stay this hurt and this productive! Yes, the calf strain was a real problem and remains so for Jacobs, but watching the tape, the limitation might be making him a little better. It appears he’s running with less cuts and less slowdowns. Not avoiding contact isn’t sustainable, but late in the season, it could be, assuming Jacobs avoids the really big ones. North-South runners can be effective in the NFL and Jacobs is finding just enough holes and has enough burst to make it work.
The downside is that the calf isn’t better and could get worse at any point. As good as he is, bettors are reliant on the Raiders medical staff and a bit of luck to keep getting these totals. Add in a reported quad issue and there’s more chance of Jacobs needing to come out than I’m really comfortable with. Add in a short week and less time for treatment of both and I get really worried about the yardage prop and what the Raiders do if he doesn’t keep producing.
MATTHEW STAFFORD, QB RAMS (concussion)
How hurt are the Rams? So much so that they just picked up Baker Mayfield off waivers and he has a chance of playing by the weekend. It’s a long way from the Super Bowl with The Weeknd playing halftime, to Baker by the weekend in Week 14. So many key pieces are sidelined that it’s no wonder the Rams have fallen off. Normally, you’d say a boom or bust plan works, but picks are they key to making that work. They don’t have those.
With Stafford, the focus is on the multiple concussions. I don’t mean to sound crass, but most concussions will heal well, with no symptoms, in a matter of days. Even significant concussions tend to clear up in weeks with no short-term symptoms. We have no idea about the long term symptoms and what causes the worst of them, but players and their families understand it. If they choose to go out there, trading risk and perhaps years for money, that’s their choice and we should never question it.
With Stafford functionally done for the year and the Rams sliding down the depth chart (and even off it), the point totals are likely to look more like last week. There’s still talent, but this is more about next year. The Raiders (this week) and Packers have been up and down teams almost as much as the Rams, so there’s some fascinating analysis to be made, especially with the short week. Give me the under and the points for the Rams.
Ravens at Steelers
LAMAR JACKSON, QB RAVENS (sprained knee)
Lamar Jackson’s knee injury didn’t look good at first, but it could have been worse. An MRI on Monday showed a Grade II PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) sprain. That means there’s a significant tear, but not enough that it won’t heal naturally. The PCL goes behind the ACL, part of the complex that stabilizes the knee. It’s not injured as often, because of its mechanics, but it’s not rare in the NFL either. With a normal healing time from one to four weeks, there’s quite a broad range of what could happen.
The function of the PCL is to keep the femur (upper leg) from sliding over the tibia (shin, lower leg), which is exactly the force you get from a hard stop. Anyone that’s watched Jackson knows he’s not a straight-line runner, so getting past this functional limitation would be very tough this week and becomes week to week, depending on his healing response and the help of a brace in the short term. Playing in Week 2 or 3 – league week 15 or 16 – bears some risk of re-injury, or slowing the healing at the very least, so the Ravens have to watch the standings and hope to buy Jackson and others some rest.
Tyler Huntley was a solid fill-in for Jackson last season. He’s a similar style QB, fitting into the offense well, though he’s not as skilled or special, which is why he’s the backup. Where Huntley lacks is in the passing game, so the WR props come down, as do the point totals.
Panthers at Seahawks
KENNETH WALKER, RB SEAHAWKS (strained ankle)
It seems like the Seahawks have been cycling through running backs, role splits, and platoons since Marshawn Lynch left for good. Kenneth Walker was drafted to help end that, but now after flashing the talent, he’s got an unusual ankle injury. Yes, chalk another one up for the SoFi turf. Walker has what Pete Carroll called a “jammed ankle” and that the team has listed as an ankle strain (not sprain!) Walker’s leg stuck and he described it as a downward trajectory. His ankle didn’t roll or twist, it stuffed/stuck. That’s an unusual mechanism that can lead to a number of possible injuries.
Walker seems to have avoided the worst of the possibilities, with no fracture or significant soft tissue issues. The strain indicates there’s some tendon or cartilage, but the team hasn’t yet ruled out Walker for this week, so there’s at least the indication that the problem is minor. That doesn’t mean he’ll play, as ankles can be very complex.
With DeeJay Dallas dealing with a high ankle sprain of his own, there’s some unknowns at this point. The Seahawks haven’t been scared to go down their depth chart, nor are they worried about having Geno Smith chuck the ball more. The run game is needed, but it can come from a lot of places. I don’t think Walker’s status will move my model on the points or how this game will play out.
Walker had been the favorite over the field to win ROY before his injury.
Buccaneers at 49ers
JIMMY GAROPPOLO, QB 49ERS (fractured foot)
TREY LANCE, QB 49ERS (fractured leg/strained ankle)
There’s still some confusion about Jimmy Garoppolo and his foot fracture. While no one has said it’s not broken, the associated damage to soft tissue and even the location of the fracture has led to a flurry of consultations and the leaks that come when a key player is injured without surety. However, it appears that the fracture is all there is and after those consultations, this is not a Lisfranc, the soft tissue damage isn’t significant, and Garoppolo could be back in seven or eight weeks. It’s a simple fracture, so all they’re waiting on is healing.
Let’s check the calendar. Seven weeks would be the division round, with eight at the NFC Championship. That’s quite the difference and if Brock Purdy gets them there, do the Niners make the switch? There’s not many situations like this, where an injured quarterback comes back in the playoffs. The best was Jim Kelly, who came back in the Championship after Frank Reich had the miracle comeback in 1992. There’s precedent, but it’s rare to be sure.
The injuries to Garoppolo has also led some to question whether Trey Lance could come back from his ankle/lower leg injury in time for the playoffs, or even before. The plan was that he would be down for the season, with Garoppolo carrying the team and letting Lance have the full year to heal. Lance is out of the boot and has been, though there’s no real word on how much, if anything, he’s done in terms of athletic movement. He’s likely running, if only in water or on an Alter-G, but everyone I spoke with said it would remain unlikely that Lance could come back, absent a real uptick in work that would have to come now, or earlier. He’s not just going to flip a switch and be back; there’s work that has to be put in over a period of time and it’s not clear that’s happening, or will be soon.
For the Niners now, the offense falls back to Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and using the mismatches. If Garoppolo was the safe system quarterback, it’s not outrageous to think Brock Purdy might be, especially if Kyle Shanahan is the QB whisperer and master play caller he’s said to be. The line will drop from where it would have been, but I didn’t see evidence that the offense as a whole was going to significantly change. If the spread or the over drops from where you think it would have been, take the opportunity.
- Join ThLines.com free Discord channel and talk sports betting with more than 4,000 community members
JOEY BOSA, DE 49ERS (hamstring tendonitis)
HASSAN RIDGEWAY, DT 49ERS (strained pectoral)
The Niners aren’t exactly the Rams, but they’ve obviously got a lot of key injuries and it goes past their quarterbacks. With Tom Brady in town, being able to do a lot against him is key, especially as the pressure builds. Nick Bosa and Hassan Ridgeway are both banged up. Bosa has a hamstring “irritation” – what I’m told is really more tendonitis than a strain and something the team can manage. Bosa is built tight, so these muscles strains are just part of the downside to his speed rush upside.
Ridgeway’s is much more serious and he’s likely done for the season with a pectoral strain. There’s no word yet on surgery, but even the short end of the six to twelve week recovery puts him towards the end of the playoffs. It’s plausible, but unlikely. The Niners did get Arik Armstead back, who’ll now have to take over the role rather than add depth. They’re different players, and with Armstead just back off an ankle issue of his own, depth behind him is key as well.
The low total obviously reflects the Garoppolo injury, but also that the Bucs just haven’t put up tons of points this year in spite of Brady. Injuries have been a big part of that, but defenses have dialed up the pressure as well. If Bosa is slowed and the pocket isn’t being collapsed, that’s Brady’s dream scenario, which could give him the chance to put up the points so many have expected.
Dolphins at Chargers (Sunday Night Football)
TUA TAGOVAILOA, QB DOLPHINS (sprained ankle)
It seems like I use Tua Tagovailoa as an example for a lot of injuries. He’s had two tightropes, the devastating hip injury, some knee injuries, a shoulder problem … it’s a lot, but he’s always come back and always stayed at a high level, especially this year. But because of that history, even simple things get a bit more complex at times.
This isn’t one of those times, though some local reports had Tagovailoa’s simple ankle sprain complicated by his past history of high ankle repair. That’s not the case. A tightrope procedure doesn’t alter the anatomy or the function of the ankle, just the high ankle (syndesmosis) and even there, it’s just a bridge that helps strengthen the area so it can heal. It doesn’t make it a super high ankle either, as some have said.
There’s little chance that the ankle will keep Tagovailoa out and with a high over (##) he’s going to need to play high level and the full game to have a shot at it. The Dolphins do seem to play well in shoot outs and the SNF spotlight might help. The simple sprain shouldn’t be more than a discomfort by the time Carrie starts singing.
ODELL BECKHAM, WR FREE AGENT (post-ACL reconstruction)
The rumblings out of Dallas started quickly after Odell Beckham Jr ended his visit, concluding his tour of three contenders for his services. Ed Werder had the first I saw, saying that Beckham’s physical didn’t go well, with some worry about when he would be ready to contribute, with even the playoffs being in question. That’s far beyond what was expected, though Beckham’s slow play of his signing raised some eyebrows about exactly where he was and why he didn’t want anyone getting a good look until he was ready. If that’s the case – and this is rumors now, though no one is better sourced than Werder – this is an intriguing situation.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Beckham or for anyone to have issues with the knee at this point post ACL-reconstruction. This was a revision – a second reconstruction, which creates some complications, but not really. Most believe the second is easier since the athlete has already been through the process. There’s always the chance this is a smokescreen, a cover for why the Cowboys don’t end up signing the receiver, or a chaos grenade tossed into a bidding war, but again, Werder’s sourcing is key.
Beckham’s status isn’t going to change any bets this week, but it’s looking less likely that it will in coming weeks either. This isn’t that unusual, but with all the positive talk about the knee from nearly the time Beckham had the surgery, the fact that there’s an unexpected issue or at least unexpectedly slow progress might put Beckham in a tougher position finding a big contract for next year rather than a soft landing with a playoff bonus.
Joe Mixon is making progress again after a setback with concussion symptoms last week. He still has to clear the protocol before returning … D’Onta Foreman missed practice this week, putting Chuba Hubbard in position for a bigger role … Mark Ingram has an MCL sprain and his season is done for the Saints … The Cards think Rondale Moore will be back from his groin strain this week, but they’ll watch him closely in practice. His game is built on quickness, so any deficit is an issue… Lots of speculation on what the new knee issue is for David Njoku after returning from a mild MCL sprain a couple weeks back. It’s likely meniscus and his status will have to be monitored … David Bakhtiari might miss more time, even with the bye, per Matt LaFleur. With laparoscopic techniques, that’s unusual and indicates some sort of complication … Von Miller is done for the season after it was determined he needed ACL reconstruction. He’s not just done for this season and playoffs, but the start of next season is in question … Speaking of ACL return times, Chase Young is still in question for his season debut and will need good practices before he’s active … Robert Quinn is heading for minor knee surgery. He’s out four weeks at least, but the Eagles think he can be back for the playoff run.