There are just three games left in the NFL season! At this point in the year, most players are dealing with something, but a few injuries hold more weight than others. With so much on the line, most will try to play through just about any injury they can.
However, depending on the injury, this could be doing their team more harm than good. It’s time to break down the biggest injury situations from the four remaining teams. Welcome to the NFL Conference Championships Injury Report!
Conference Championships Inactives
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) San Francisco 49ers
Alex Cappa (OG) Cincinnati Bengals
Jonah Williams (OT) Cincinnati Bengals
NFL Conference Championships Injury Report
AJ Brown (WR) Philadelphia Eagles
Hip Injury, Initial Injury: 1/21/2023
It looks like the good news just continues to roll in for the Philadelphia Eagles. During a dominant win in the divisional round, their star WR gave them a late scare. AJ Brown appeared to suffer a lower-body injury late in the game and had a minor limp walking to the bench. Despite his evident frustration last week, it is much better news on this conference championship injury report.
Brown quickly downplayed the hip injury early in the week and added confidence as a full participant in practice Wednesday. I fully expect this to be something Brown plays through, but monitoring his practice participation will be key. A week of full participation in practice will bode well in my confidence for him to produce on Sunday.
WR AJ Brown is a full participant to start the week and is expected to be close to 100% Sunday. – START
Christian McCaffrey (RB) San Francisco 49ers
Calf Injury, Initial Injury: 1/22/2023
The San Francisco 49ers have a key player listed on the conference championship injury report. Mr. Versatile RB Christian McCaffrey appears to have picked up a minor calf strain in last week’s game. He also was a non-participant in practice to start the week. The good news is that he was able to return to the game and that he is expected to play Sunday per Shanahan.
Calf injuries have a tendency to heal quickly but are tricky due to moderate reinjury rates. For this reason, having McCaffrey rest for these early-week practices may not be a bad idea. The calf muscle is key in a player’s explosive power, which is a vital part of McCaffrey’s game.
His acceleration and change of direction will rely on his calf being healthy. Minor calf injuries typically heal in 1-2 weeks, and I would expect McCaffrey to play, given the magnitude of the game. There is just a bit more risk than usual with this play due to the chance of a re-injury.
RB Christian McCaffrey is dealing with a minor calf injury that should allow him to play but is at risk for a reinjury. – START
Elijah Mitchell (RB) San Francisco 49ers
Groin Strain, Initial Injury: 1/22/2023
Almost all facets of the San Francisco running game are coming in banged up this week. RB Elijah Mitchell is dealing with a groin strain and which is one of the most concerning injuries on this conference championship injury report. This injury refers to damage to muscles of the inner thigh. A groin strain/injury is really an umbrella term, as it could involve abdominal, hip muscles, or both. The groin allows a player to move their torso and change directions quickly. A player’s cutting ability, route running, and catch radius will all be negatively affected with this injury. Typically, a mild groin injury takes about 2-3 weeks to fully rehab.
Despite optimism from coach Shanahan early in the week, Mitchell is in danger of having to little to no role Sunday. He was unable to practice at all this week and backup RB Tevin Coleman was just activated for Sunday. He is officially listed as questionable and I do expect him to try and play. However, I am not expecting much production out of him this weekend. Groin strains also come with a moderately high re-injury risk, that is elevated the sooner the player tries to return. Unfortunately, it looks like lead RB Christian McCaffrey will have to carry the load this week, even though he is a bit banged up.
RB Elijah Mitchell listed as questionable but is in danger of playing littler to no factor this week. – SIT
Patrick Mahomes (QB) Kansas City Chiefs
High Ankle Sprain, Initial Injury: 1/21/2023
Now we get to the portion of the conference championship injury report we’ve all been waiting for. Undoubtedly the biggest injury concern of the weekend is Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. In what was seemingly the “tackle heard around the world,” a Jacksonville player landed on Mahomes’ ankle.
This caused a direct blow to his lower outer leg while his foot was planted, clearly indicating a high ankle sprain. These types of ankle sprains are much more serious and harder to deal with than the common low ankle sprain.
A high ankle sprain refers to damage to the ligaments (syndesmosis) connecting the lower leg bones above the ankle. These ligaments act to absorb shock and stabilize the ankle while running and jumping. Mahomes’ mobility is going to be significantly limited for the next several weeks.
In mild cases, these sprains are fully recovered in 4-6 weeks. Clearly, the Chiefs QB is aiming to be as recovered as possible in just one week.
High ankle sprains require much more force to occur than a low ankle sprains, as the ligaments involved are stronger. This also means that more damage was caused to the ankle, which correlates to a longer recovery time.
This increased instability in the ankle is going to lead to quicker throws and less scrambling from the Chiefs QB. This injury will likely limit many of the things that make Mahomes so unique.
Not So Fast…
Despite the negative outlook of this injury, it has been primarily positive news coming from Mahomes and the Chiefs. It is really impressive that Mahomes was able to even return in the second half and help secure the win. In even better news, it appears his ankle is steadily improving, and he is not in a walking boot, nor does he have a limp.
He was also logged as a full participant on the practice report Wednesday. I will be watching any practice videos and reports like a hawk this week, but so far, Mahomes is making me believe he has a chance to be somewhat productive this week.
QB Patrick Mahomes is facing an uphill battle with his injury but, so far, seems to be on a steady road to recovery. – START
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB) Kansas City Chiefs
High Ankle Sprain, Initial Injury: 11/20/2022
The Kansas City Chiefs rushing offense got off to a bit of a slow start in the first half of the season. With a number of solid options in the backfield, the team struggled to find the most effective rotation. The running game situation became a little clearer when one of these top backs got injured in Week 11. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered a high ankle sprain and was placed on the injured reserve.
A high ankle sprain refers to damage to the ligaments (syndesmosis) connecting the lower leg bones above the ankle. These ligaments serve as shock absorbers and play a role in stabilizing the lower leg during running and jumping.
A mild high ankle sprain typically takes between four and six weeks for a full recovery. Edwards-Helaire’s route running and cutting ability would be hindered upon return due to the injury.
There is some mystery surrounding Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the conference championship injury report. He was designated to return to practice last week, and there was some belief he would be activated off IR.
However, this did not happen, and the Chiefs RB continues to practice but remains on IR. At this point, CEH may be healthy enough to play, but Kansas City may still decide not to activate him.
Not only will he likely need a game to adjust, as he has been out for a long time, but his role is uncertain. Fellow RB Isiah Pacheco has been the #1 option on the ground, while McKinnon has dominated the receiving game.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has returned to practice but is unlikely to be activated this week. – SIT
Mecole Hardman (WR) Kansas City Chiefs
Groin Strain, Initial Injury: 11/6/2023
It has been a frustrating second half of the season for Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman. He injured his groin during Week 9 back in November against the Titans. Hardman was quickly put on IR but was expected to return before the season was over. He had returned to practice and was making progress in returning in Week 18. Unfortunately, he suffered a setback to his injury and had been unable to practice since.
However, this changed on Wednesday when he logged limited participation in practice. This was a huge first step toward his availability for Sunday. The unfortunate news is that groin injuries are challenging to come back from.
A groin strain refers to damage to muscles of the inner thigh but is really an umbrella term. It could involve abdominal muscles, hip muscles, or both.
These injuries can be tricky as they have a high reinjury rate. It often gives a false sense of being healed sooner than it actually is. The groin plays a big role in allowing a player to change direction quickly and rotate their body. Hardman would need to string together a few practices in a row to feel confident about his producing this week.
WR Mecole Hardman is practicing but is dealing with a tricky injury he has already re-injured. – MONITOR
Hayden Hurst (TE) Cincinnati Bengals
Calf Injury, Initial Injury: 12/4/2022
The Cincinnati offense has been shuffling players around this entire season. Bengals TE Hayden Hurst injured his lower leg early in the game in Week 13 and was quickly ruled out. He suffered a calf strain injury, meaning he has some damage to muscles in the back of the lower leg. The calf plays a key role in EXPLOSIVE power and allows for a quick burst, and change of direction. The recovery timeline is 1-3 weeks in mild cases and 4-6 weeks in more moderate cases.
These injuries also come with a fairly high reinjury rate. It can be difficult for a player to gauge how quickly their muscle is healing. All it takes is trying to sprint at an intensity their body is not ready for and they could be looking at reinjuring the calf even further. It seems Hurst is running into this issue as he was listed a limited participant for Thursday’s practice. Hurst returned in Week 18 and has been a solid contributor on offense. However, it seems he may have suffered a minor setback in practice this week. The expectation is that he will play Sunday, but he will likely be a bit limited. More serious, is the high risk for a reinjury, ending his day early.
Bengals TE Hayden Hurst is expected to play Sunday but runs the risk of a reinjury to his calf that caused him to miss 4 weeks. – SIT
Jalen Hurts (QB) Philadelphia Eagles
Shoulder Injury, Initial Injury: 12/18/2022
The one-time MVP favorite is heading into the conference championship off of the Eagles’ official injury report. Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has been dealing with a shoulder injury he suffered against the Bears.
He was landed on by a Bears defensive lineman, with most of the force directed at his throwing shoulder. Hurts finished the game, but the injury did cause him to miss two weeks in a row. After Philly dropped those two games, Hurts played in Week 18 to secure the #1 seed but looked limited.
The Eagles have not disclosed exactly what type of injury he is dealing with, but it is most likely an AC sprain. These injuries can be played through but are painful and do negatively affect a player’s throwing ability temporarily. On the other hand, these injuries typically heal in 2-4 weeks, depending on the severity.
Hurts silenced some doubters last week after an impressive performance against the Giants. He looked more like his pre-injury self than in Week 18, but he was not truly tested much. Philadelphia was able to rely on their running game and coast to a victory in the divisional round.
He faces a much bigger test against the 49ers and the #1 defense this week. Hurts may not be 100%, but I would absolutely expect him to put his body on the line for a win.
QB Jalen Hurts has shed his injury designation and is likely close to a 100% but may be dealing with some rust. – START
Jauan Jennings (WR) San Francisco 49ers
Low Ankle Sprain, Initial Injury: 1/14/2023
San Francisco 49ers WR Jauan Jennings is a player who typically does the dirty work for this team from the WR position. He is known to be an excellent blocker on the perimeter and does whatever it takes for the team to win. Well, it makes sense that he may have picked up an ankle injury during the game, but he did not let that end his day.
Jenning’s ankle injury is likely a mild low ankle sprain, which has a very short recovery time. It typically only takes 1-3 weeks for those lateral ankle ligaments to heal. These injuries can negatively impact balance and cutting ability but not significantly in mild cases.
Despite some limited practices last week, Jennings was able to play the entire game. With no injury designation for this week, expect to see the WR at near full strength this week.
WR Jauan Jennings is dealing with a minor ankle sprain but should be near full strength Sunday. His small role since Deebo’s return makes him less of a factor. – SIT
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB) San Francisco 49ers
Foot Fracture, Initial Injury: 12/4/2022
The San Francisco 49ers are no stranger to a lengthy injury report, with conference championship week following suit. After already seeing their starting QB Trey Lance go down for the season, 49ers fans watched QB go down similarly in Week 13.
Garoppolo suffered a broken foot during a tackle, and the initial diagnosis is that he would be out for the rest of the season and most of the offseason. However, this diagnosis changed a bit after more tests revealed he would not need surgery, and there is a small chance he could return deep in the playoffs.
Depending on his rehab, there is a possibility that his recovery window is 7-8 weeks. This refers to the time it will take his foot fracture to heal. It is a bit unrealistic to expect him to be ready to play in a playoff game as soon as the foot heals.
It seems that coach Shanahan agrees with this as he does not expect Garoppolo to be ready for this week. There is a better chance for a Jimmy G Super Bowl return, but to have his first start back to be the Super Bowl seems foolish.
Jimmy G is doubtful to take the field this week and would be rusty in a potential Super Bowl return. – SIT