It’s playoff time! And after a long 18 weeks, every NFL team is feeling some kind of banged-up heading into the post-season. We’re here to outline some of the notable key injuries (and potential returns!) for each of the Wildcard teams and how that may or may not affect their game. Today we’re starting with the teams headed into AFC match-ups.



Darius Philon (LVR) – DT – Patellar Tendon Rupture – Defensive tackle, Darius Philon, suffered a season ending injury in the Raider’s Week 18 contest against the Chargers. The patellar tendon is the tendon that attaches the muscles of the quadriceps to the tibia bone and is responsible, essentially, for straightening the leg. An injury typically occurs when there is underlying degeneration or injury to the tendon prior to complete rupture. The tear itself usually occurs when a person suddenly contracts the quad muscles from a flexed position. An injury like this, especially in the case of an elite athlete like Philon, almost always requires surgery and extensive rehabilitation. The Raider will certainly miss any of the team’s post-season run and potentially the start of training camp in July.

Quinton Spain (CIN) LG – High Ankle Sprain – The offensive lineman was injured in Week 16 when the Bengals played the former AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. It appeared as though a defender rolled up onto Spain, twisting his ankle. We’ve reported on high ankle sprains in the past and have seen how long they can take to recover from, but Cincinnati fans are optimistic after seeing their starting guard return to practice on Tuesday. Fortunately for Spain, aggressive taping and bracing will help keep the joint stable while he’s using his ankle to push off for blocks.



Christian Barmore (NEP) – DT – R Knee Injury – Last week was a scary sight for New England fans as defensive tackle, Christian Barmore, was carted off the field during the Pats game against Miami. However, MRI tests performed this week showed a “clean” report. What is a clean report? Without knowing for sure, it likely means that no soft tissue structures looked to be damaged and that the rookie will likely be active for Saturday’s contest.

Emmanuel Sanders (BUF) – WR – Knee Sprain – The receiver for Buffalo has been out since Week 15 due to a “knee injury”. Some reports have mentioned a “sprain”, which in medical terminology, would involve the soft tissue structures of the knee. The soft tissue of the knee is particularly important in maintaining stability of the joint. Without proper knee stability, a wide receiver will have difficulty making the quick cuts and stops required for route running. The timetable for return would also be consistent with a sprain injury, as Sanders reportedly returned to full practice on Tuesday.



Najee Harris (PIT) – RB – R Elbow Injury – Pittsburgh’s starting running back, Najee Harris, injured his elbow in the playoff clinching, regular season finale against the Ravens. After going down in the third play of the game, Harris eventually returned to the game in the third quarter with an elbow sleeve and switched to carrying the ball in his left arm. While we mostly hear about lower body injuries to skill position players, an elbow injury can be just as devastating to a role dependent on ball handling and protection. In addition to strength and pain considerations for carrying the ball, an elbow sprain could also affect the ability to stiff arm and block defenders. While Harris will more than likely play in this week’s post-season contest, it will be interesting to see if and how he adapts his game to accommodate for his elbow.

Tyreek Hill (KC) – WR – Heel Injury – The offensive superstar only played one snap in the Chief’s finale game against Denver after injuring his heel during the pregame warmups. It was reported that Hill bruised his calcaneus, aka the heel bone of the foot. While an injury to the heel doesn’t necessarily affect stability or strength, it can certainly be painful. Many times an orthotic or pad can be placed in the cleat to help relieve discomfort, but this factor, along with potential pain, could affect Hill’s gait and speed. Luckily for the Chiefs, the receiver has speed to spare and will most certainly start against the Steel Curtain.


Only time will tell if these injuries affect the outcomes of the AFC matchups. One thing is for sure, we should have some exciting games to check out this weekend. Stay tuned for our NFC Injury Report coming soon!


Learn more about EXCEL’s history of treating professional athletes here.