Five Key Divisional Round Injuries
As you continue to handicap the four NFL Divisional Round games this weekend, here are five injuries to factor into your wagering.
1. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Unless there's a setback, the Steelers will have their top wide receiver for Sunday's rematch with the Jaguars. Brown (calf) is practicing in full for the game and is set to return this week after sitting out Pittsburgh's final two games of the regular season with a torn calf muscle. He'll have his work cut out for him too, as Brown and the Steelers will face Jalen Rasmey and Jacksonville's outstanding secondary. Still, Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards when he faced the Jags in Week 5 (a game the Steelers lost, 30-9). According to oddsmakers from online sports book Bovada.lv, the Steelers are 7.5-point home favorites to beat the Jaguars.
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2. DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
Murray (knee) was held out of the Titans' Wild Card victory over the Chiefs and has already been ruled out for Saturday night's game in Foxborough. Here's what this is important. Derrick Henry averages 2.53 yards after contact. Murray, meanwhile, averages 1.41. Henry is third among 47 backs in that category and was highly effective a week ago as the primary back for the Titans. In other words, the Titans are better when Murray is their lead back and Murray is out of the way. The Patriots rank 30th in rushing defense DVOA and are allowing a league-high 2.95 yards before first contact on rushing plays. With Tennessee listed as a 13.5-point underdog, perhaps the Titans have some value in a pure strength vs. weakness sense.
3. Andrus Peat, OL, New Orleans Saints
The Saints placed Peat, their left guard this season, on injured reserve with a broken fibula and a high-ankle sprain. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the ligament damage in Peat's ankle isn't as bad as intinally feared but he will miss the rest of the season. Senio Kelemete will handle left guard duties for a Saints team that will face the Vikings' outstanding defense on Sunday afternoon. Granted, New Orleans' offensive line did a great job protecting a vintage Drew Brees in the team's Wild Card victory over the Panthers. Where the unit struggled, however, was opening holes for Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the running game. If the Saints (who are 4-point road underdogs) can't run the ball on Sunday they could be in trouble.
4. Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Burkhead has been "heavily favoring" his injured left knee at practice. Howe noted that Burkhead has had difficulty stretching and believes he'll be limited if he suits up Saturday against the Titans. This injury news is good to note for fantasy purposes as Dion Lewis would seemingly play an even bigger role in the Patriots' offense. Lewis scored five touchdowns over his final three regular-season games and could play a huge role against a Titans' defense that has had issues with pass-catching backs all season. The Patriots are garnering a huge following from public bettors this weekend.
5. Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
We'll list all three of these players together because all three were limited on Wednesday but none are expected to miss Saturday's game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Falcons are a 3-point road favorite and will have the services of Freeman (knee), Sanu (knee) and Jones (ankle) for when they take on the top-seeded Eagles. All three players played, and were effectively in the Falcons' 26-13 victory over the Rams Wild Card Weekend.