The Buffalo Bills want to do everything they can to help their rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel, in his first NFL start against the New England Patriots. But the bigger concern might be assisting a secondary that will be without perhaps its two best players.
The Bills are reporting that safety Jairus Byrd is doubtful with a foot injury and corner Stephon Gilmore is doubtful with a wrist injury. Gilmore was expected to be out for the next several weeks, but there had been hope that Byrd could return for the opener, which now looks to be in serious doubt. Think Tom Brady is excited for this one?
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On the other side of the coin, the Patriots only report reserve offensive lineman Will Svitek (knee) as out and tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) as doubtful among their key contributors who could miss. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is probable.
Now here’s a look at some of the key injuries in the remaining 13 games on Sunday:
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers: The Panthers could be starting two linemen who haven’t been heard from much lately. Journeyman offensive guard Chris Scott might have to start in place of Amini Silatolu (hamstring). Defensive tackle Chris Cole, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010, might replace Dwan Edwards (thigh). Depth issues could test them against a deep Seahawks team that is in decent shape if starting corner Brandon Browner (hamstring) can play.
Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears: The Bears indicate a near-perfect sheet of health — zero players listed on the official injury report on Friday. Expect defensive tackle Henry Melton, linebacker D.J. Williams and wide receiver Earl Bennett all to play. For the Bengals, the biggest worry is starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth, whose knee doesn’t appear to be ready to go.
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns: The Dolphins won’t have either their second- or their third-round picks, corners Will Davis and Jamar Taylor, for the game, leaving the secondary a bit lean, although first-round defensive end Dion Jordan will be good to go after missing time with a shoulder. But the Browns, too, will be light defensively with first-round pass rusher Barkevious Mingo (bruised lung) already ruled out for this one. A few other key defenders, defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and corner Buster Skrine (shoulder), are questionable.
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: The Vikings might only be without one key player Sunday, but he’s a big key. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) has been ruled out, meaning first-rounder Sharrif Floyd will be starting in his place in his NFL debut. Three Lions defensive starters — end Ziggy Ansah (concussion), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and tackle/end Jason Jones (knee) — all are probable and likely to play.
Oakland Raiders at Indianapolis Colts: The Raiders have a beat-up offensive line, with Jared Veldheer (triceps) and Menelik Watson (knee) out, so the protection could be a little shaky for starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor. There are problems on defense, too, with impressive rookie Sio Moore (foot) listed as questionable. The Colts might be without linebackers Kavell Connor (out) and Pat Angerer (doubtful), but they are mostly healthy elsewhere, including at tight end, with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars: It looks as if Blaine Gabbert (thumb) will start for Jacksonville, even if he’s listed as questionable, but tight end Marcedes Lewis (calf) is out. Most of the Chiefs’ big injuries are on defense, and none to major contributors. The only one who has been ruled out has been linebacker Nico Johnson (ankle).
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: Don’t fret over Falcons receiver Roddy White, who is listed as questionable but doesn’t miss games. He’ll play, as usual. Less certain are linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh), who are perhaps game-time decisions. The Saints come in mostly healthy for Sean Payton’s first game in more than a year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets: Corner Darrelle Revis isn’t missing this one for anything — he’s listed as probable. The biggest loss for the Bucs will be Pro Bowl offensive guard Carl Nicks (foot), who is officially out. The Jets won’t have Mark Sanchez, meaning Geno Smith will start in his debut. And defensive end Quinton Coples (ankle) is out, too, a big loss. It’s not clear if wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who has been out since last season, will return to the field with his foot injury.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers: The Titans might not have a fullback, as Quinn Johnson is doubtful with a quad. Right tackle David Stewart, listed as questionable with a calf, hasn’t practiced and could miss also. Steelers tight end Heath Miller is doubtful, but the feeling is that he’s not too far away from returning. Le’Veon Bell, as expected, is also out.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: Packers corner Casey Hayward (hamstring) is out, and safety Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones (hamstring for both players) are questionable, making it tougher to stop a 49ers offense that rolled them eight months ago. For San Francisco, corner Nnamdi Asomugha (collarbone) and running back LaMichael James (knee) are the only ones in danger of missing.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams: Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is questionable but has a chance to play. Tight end Rob Housler does not; he’s been ruled out. The Rams are mostly healthy, with a few minor injuries dotting the list.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys: It’s up in the air whether Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul can gut it out through a painful back injury, but wide receiver Victor Cruz is good to go. The offensive line must make do without center David Baas and tackle David Diehl, with rookie Justin Pugh starting in Diehl’s place. The Cowboys’ defensive line depth will be seriously tested, especially if end Anthony Spencer (knee) can’t go.