April 15, 2024

The Los Angeles Rams greatly improved their playoff chances while dealing a serious blow to those of the New Orleans Saints in the first game of Week 16.

Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua, the Rams built a big lead then hung on to beat the Saints 30-22 at SoFi Stadium.

Stafford passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns as Los Angeles (8-7) won for the fifth time in six games and improved its postseason chances to nearly 70%. Nacua had nine catches for a career-high 164 yards and a touchdown.

New Orleans (7-8) scored the final 15 points on Thursday night, but it wasn’t enough. Their playoff chances would have improved to 71% with a victory but dropped to 24% with the loss.

Several games this weekend carry major playoff implications, and some teams will have to go without key starters. Cincinnati Bengals star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase already has been ruled out, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati’s opponent, will be minus both of their starting safeties.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence practiced Friday, but he remains in concussion protocol. It could come down to game time whether he will get the green light to play at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Here are more injury updates from our NFL Nation reporters as we head toward the Sunday matchups:

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Injury: Concussion

Lawrence practiced Friday for the first time this week, and coach Doug Pederson said the quarterback is “trending in the right direction” to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But he’ll have to clear concussion protocol first. Pederson said if Lawrence isn’t cleared by the time the team leaves for Tampa on Saturday then he won’t travel — which would mean C.J. Beathard would get his first start since the 2020 regular-season finale while a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

— Michael DiRocco


Injury: Right shoulder

Chase didn’t practice all week and is out for Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This could mean a bigger target share for WR Tee Higgins, especially with Pittsburgh down two safeties. But also keep an eye on rookie WR Andrei Iosivas, who is expected to have a bigger role.

— Ben Baby


Injury: Ankle

Hill missed last week’s win over the Jets with an ankle injury but was able to return to practice at the end of this week — a positive sign for his availability Sunday. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said the NFL’s leading receiver hasn’t suffered any setbacks this week; all signs are pointing toward him playing against the Dallas Cowboys.

— Marcel Louis-Jacques


Injury: Thumb; concussion/shoulder

Pittman cleared concussion protocol Friday following the brutal hit he sustained against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. But he was limited in Friday’s practice with what the Colts described as a shoulder injury. Coach Shane Steichen strongly suggested Pittman will play Sunday.

— Stephen Holder


Injury: Ankle

Mike Vrabel said Levis is questionable against the visiting Seattle Seahawks. Levis missed the first two days of practice before being a limited participant Friday. The injury occurred in overtime last week against the Houston Texans when Desmond King II sacked Levis. Vrabel said the injury is similar to the one Ryan Tannehill suffered last season. Tannehill will start if Levis is unable to play.

— Turron Davenport


Injury: Shoulder

Pacheco is on track to play after missing the past two games. He had a procedure to clean out some debris following offseason shoulder surgery. The Chiefs could be without wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hip) and running back Jerick McKinnon against the Raiders. Neither player worked during the first two practice days of the week.

— Adam Teicher


Injury: Toe and chest

With 54 catches, he needs only one more to tie and two to break the franchise record for receptions by a rookie (55, set by Sterling Sharpe in 1988). But Reed did not practice all week and was listed as questionable. The Packers also aren’t expected to have Christian Watson (hamstring), while fellow receiver Dontayvion Wicks is questionable with an ankle injury.

— Rob Demovsky


Injury: Quad

Jacobs, who is averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry, practiced Friday for the first time since getting injured against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 10, though on a limited basis. But as Raiders interim coach Antonio Pierce said, “If I [were] a betting man, I would think he’d play this game.” In four career games at Arrowhead Stadium, Jacobs has rushed for 359 yards on 70 carries (5.1 YPC) with three touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 93 yards.

— Paul Gutierrez


Injury: Heel

The Chargers ruled out Allen for Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, his second straight missed game. The Chargers haven’t disclosed specifics of Allen’s injury, but heel issues have kept players on this team sidelined for multiple weeks this year, including safety Alohi Gilman, who missed three games, and cornerback Deane Leonard, who has missed the past two.

— Kris Rhim


Injury: Knee; ankle

Henry hasn’t missed a game since he joined the Patriots as a free agent in 2021, but he’s in jeopardy of doing so after missing practices Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury sustained early in the fourth quarter of the Week 15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Henry tried to do a little more in practice Friday in an indication that he was attempting to try to power through. He’s officially listed as questionable.

After his most productive game of the season in the Week 14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (four receptions, 90 yards), Smith-Schuster missed the loss to the Chiefs and hasn’t healed to the point that he can return Sunday night against the Denver Broncos. Smith-Schuster wasn’t at practice Friday and later was officially ruled out.

— Mike Reiss


Injury: Ankle

Mattison returned to practice Friday for the first time since spraining an ankle two weeks ago. He got limited work, however, and all indications are that Ty Chandler will be the Vikings’ starting tailback in Sunday’s must-win game against the Detroit Lions. It’s not out of the question that Mattison will be active and available for use as a backup, but coach Kevin O’Connell said there would be no decision before Sunday morning. “We’ve kind of gone about it where it truly is going to end up being pretty close to a game-time decision in that regard,” O’Connell said. “We’ll adjust accordingly, but hoping to have Alex.”

— Kevin Seifert


Injury: Concussion

With Wilson still in the concussion protocol, the Jets will use their fourth different starting quarterback — Trevor Siemian. This will be his first start since last season and only his in the past six years. He hasn’t had many reps with the Jets’ starters — only two mop-up outings — so this could be shaky.

— Rich Cimini


Injury: Knee; shoulder

Not only will the Steelers be without QB Kenny Pickett (ankle) for the third game in a row, but they’re also significantly depleted in the secondary. Damontae Kazee is suspended for the rest of the regular season, and both Fitzpatrick and Thompson are out. Because of that, the Steelers are moving cornerback Patrick Peterson to free safety, and likely to elevate at least one practice squad safety such as Eric Rowe or Jalen Elliott. Safety Elijah Riley, who was still on IR as of Friday morning, is questionable to play Saturday, which would be a boost for a group down so many players.

— Brooke Pryor


Injury: Illness; foot

Beckham missed the first two practices of the week before returning Friday. He looked fine and even dribbled a soccer ball off to the side. Beckham is coming off one of his most forgettable games. Last week in Jacksonville, he finished with as many catches (one) as drops and got held to 14 yards receiving, his second fewest of the season. But Beckham averaged 82.3 yards in his previous three games.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said there is no concern about Flowers’ status for Monday night. Flowers returned to practice Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. He has surpassed 50 yards receiving only once in his past four games, but he has scored two touchdowns over that span.

— Jamison Hensley


Injury: Back

Smith is looking at missing his fourth game this season because of injury. Smith hurt his back last week vs. Buffalo, did not practice during the week and is listed as doubtful. Chuma Edoga would step in for Smith, and coach Mike McCarthy believes the veteran has gotten better as the year has gone on while focusing more on tackle than guard in practice. If there is a good sign for the Cowboys OL, it’s Zack Martin, who has a quadriceps bruise and is listed as questionable, saying Thursday that “it’s looking good for this weekend.”

— Todd Archer


Injury: Ankle

Onyemata, who has practiced the past two days on a limited basis, is officially questionable again. If Onyemata can play — Falcons coach Arthur Smith said he had a good week of practice — that would be a big lift for a defense that might be facing Indianapolis Colts starting running back Jonathan Taylor. Bud Dupree, one of the Falcons’ key edge rushers, is also questionable with a back injury. Neither Onyemata nor Dupree played last week against Carolina.

— Michael Rothstein


Injury: Concussion; personal

Jenkins remains in concussion protocol and did not practice this week. The Bears will once again turn to Cody Whitehair to fill in for Jenkins the way they did in Cleveland. Foreman, Chicago’s top running back, missed practice Thursday for a personal reason and was limited in practice Friday. Coach Matt Eberflus was noncommittal on whether Foreman would be available against the Arizona Cardinals.

— Courtney Cronin


Injury: Knee

The Browns’ defensive captain continues to battle a knee injury. Sione Takitaki will get more time with Walker out.

— Jake Trotter


Injury: Ankle

Carolina’s best blocking TE didn’t play last week, leaving the team with only two healthy players at the position. Interim coach Chris Tabor said Thomas “should be good” for Sunday, which is likely to help even more for a team that will focus on the run against a Green Bay defense that has struggled to stop it.

— David Newton

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