To achieve postseason success, NFL teams need to have not only exceptional talent and coaching, but also a fair amount of good luck and health. The Indianapolis Colts are beat up at the moment, and their opponent–the Buffalo Bills–are slightly less so. However, Buffalo’s main injuries are affecting one important position group: wide receivers. Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Isaiah McKenzie all appeared on the team’s injury reports this week. Both Diggs and Beasley are listed as questionable, although the prevailing belief is that both will play.
Bills WRs, Colts DBs
The Colts will be defending the Bills’ receivers with a battered and bruised secondary. Cornerbacks T.J. Carrie and Rock Ya-Sin and safeties Khari Willis and Tavon Wilson were all listed on the Indianapolis injury report. Fortunately, Willis cleared concussion protocol and will return to steady Matt Eberflus’ zone-based defense. Ya-Sin is still recovering from his concussion and has already been ruled out. Due to his penalties (and Carrie’s consistent play in his stead), Ya-Sin’s absence may not be entirely detrimental. Of course, roster depth in the playoffs cannot be taken for granted.
Offensive tackle Will Holden, like Ya-Sin, is out. The biggest remaining injury concern is December’s AFC Defensive Player of the Month, DeForest Buckner. Buckner is fully expected to play, but he was listed as questionable after sitting out Tuesday and Wednesday and being limited Thursday. You may recall that Buckner injured his ankle a few weeks back, was used as a third-down specialist against Houston, but has played all meaningful snaps against both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. There should be no reason that he sits out today.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) January 7, 2021
In Holden’s place (who was filling in for Le’Raven Clark, who backed up Anthoy Castonzo), Jared Veldheer will get the start at left tackle. Veldheer came out of retirement prior to the finale against Jackonsville and played well enough to keep the job. He is a better run blocker than pass blocker, but he is hardly the liability that Clark and Chaz Green were earlier in the season.
Lastly, running back Jordan Wilkins will be sidelined due to COVID-19. Wilkins may have gotten a few carries after Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, so now those reps will fall to Darius Anderson or possibly DeMichael Harris. As we have discussed previously, their rush offense could be the Colts’ best chance to hang in this game. If they want to advance, they will need Taylor and Hines to put up huge numbers.
Like we hear all the time, no one is completely healthy at this point in the season. Football is a grind and takes both a physical and mental toll. The playoffs will separate wheat from chaff, although injuries and good fortune will play a sizable role as well.
The Colts are relatively healthy, and if they do lose today, it should not be due to key players missing the game.