As the Buffalo Bills attempt to do something they have yet to do this season — win four games in a row — on Sunday, the team has listed four players as questionable on its final injury report of the week.
Friday injury report pic.twitter.com/d1W1zcZVMV— Buffalo Bills PR (@BuffaloBillsPR) December 29, 2023
While defensive tackle DaQuan Jones is officially listed as questionable, head coach Sean McDermott said earlier today that he expects the 10-year veteran to be back in uniform this weekend. Jones has been on Injured Reserve (IR) since October, but is expected to be activated today, a week and a half before his January 9 practice window-closing date. I would suspect that his questionable designation is more due to not having activated the 32-year-old defensive end yet. The Bills have until 4 p.m. EST on Saturday to take care of that piece of business in order for Jones to be eligible to play on Sunday.
Good news for Buffalo is that A.J. Epenesa is questionable for Sunday. Epenesa injured his ribs while intercepting a Patrick Mahomes pass in the first quarter of Buffalo’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. Epenesa has been out of the non-contact jersey this week, which is a good sign that he’s moving towards being back in the defensive rotation. When McDermott spoke this morning he said he was unsure about whether the fourth-year defensive end out of Iowa would be ready to play this weekend and he hoped to learn more throughout the day’s practice. Looks like he’s still unsure, but questionable is definitely better than being ruled out.
Safety Damar Hamlin and receiver Justin Shorter round out the list of players with questionable game-day designations for the Bills, and it’s highly unlikely that either will be active on Sunday. For Hamlin, who injured his shoulder last Saturday when the Bills beat the Los Angeles Chargers but was able to return to play wearing a harness, he would likely be inactive even if he didn’t have an injury. Hamlin has been a healthy scratch for every game in which Jordan Poyer, Taylor Rapp, and Micah Hyde were all active. With the latter of those entering the weekend with no designation — a first since he suffered a stinger in Kansas City three weeks ago — there’s no reason for Buffalo to play Hamlin. As for Shorter, he’s still technically on IR and there’s no clear path for returning him to the active roster — at least not before his practice window expires on January 3.
Everyone else on Buffalo’s injury list from this week was a full participant in Friday’s practice (with the exception of Stefon Diggs’ vet rest day and Cam Lewis having a personal matter to attend to) and enters the weekend ready to play — including running back Ty Johnson who was still in a non-contact jersey as of yesterday and defensive end Shaq Lawson who was dealing with an illness earlier in the week.
On the other side of the field, Buffalo’s opponents will be the division rival New England Patriots who have ruled out one player already and have more than a couple listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
The Patriots will be playing without wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster who is dealing with an ankle injury. Smith-Schuster missed the last two weeks with the injury and will now sit out a third game.
While New England removed running back Ezekiel Elliott from the injury list today, effectively clearing him to play on Sunday after he had dealt with an illness this week, they still have nine players listed as questionable for game day.
Safety Kyle Dugger is now dealing with an illness while fellow safety Jabrill Peppers is struggling with a hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s game. In addition, cornerbacks Shaun Wade, Myles Brant, and Jonathan Jones are also listed as limited for Sunday — making New England’s defensive backfield a big question mark. On the upside for the Patriots, safety Jalen Mills went from a DNP to a full participant and clearing concussion protocol to enter the weekend without a game-day designation.
Also questionable for New England are defensive lineman Christian Barmore, tight end Hunter Henry, and linebacker Anfernee Jennings who are all dealing with knee injuries, and wide receiver Matthew Slater who has a hamstring injury.
With the game scheduled for a 1 p.m. EST kickoff on New Year’s Eve day, both teams have until 11:30 a.m. EST on Sunday to announce their official game-day rosters and subsequent inactives.