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AFC playoff contenders all dealing with key injuries

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Every team is banged up in December, but some key injuries could influence the AFC playoff race

The Buffalo Bills placed two players on injured reserve Tuesday, adding players from their practice squad in order to add depth due to various injuries. The Bills aren’t the only AFC playoff contender dealing with injury issues at the moment.

The Baltimore Ravens placed rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill on injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL. Hill is the fourth cornerback Baltimore has placed on I-R this year, joining Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and Brandon Boykin on the list. While Hill was primarily a special teams contributor, his injury leaves the Ravens with less depth heading into an all-important matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The Tennessee Titans are looking at playing without starting running back DeMarco Murray on Sunday. An MRI reportedly revealed that Murray has a third-degree tear of the MCL in his knee, but he has yet to be ruled out by head coach Mike Mularkey. If you’re like me and you had to look up what a third-degree tear is, it’s not good—it’s a complete tear of the ligament. According to ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe, Mularkey said that the injury is less about general effectiveness than it is pain tolerance. Mularkey has yet to rule Murray out for the game, choosing to refer to him as “day-to-day.”

Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers could be in the worst shape of all four teams fighting for the AFC’s two playoff spots with regard to injury, as star running back Melvin Gordon may miss the team’s regular season finale due to an ankle injury. Gordon is believed to have suffered a high ankle sprain against the New York Jets this past Sunday, and with the team already missing tight end Hunter Henry (kidney laceration), the Chargers offense will be limited without Gordon. Austin Ekeler, the backup running back, has a broken ring finger, which limited him to special teams duty only in Week 16. The Chargers would be forced to use Branden Oliver as their primary running back if Ekeler and Gordon are unable to play.

The Sunday scramble for inclusion in the 2017 NFL playoffs could be won by the teams best able to shake off injuries. Let’s hope that Buffalo is among those still standing when the final gun sounds.