By Christian S. Kohl
This week saw an increase in preseason intensity. Starters played longer, and the injury totals spiked yet again. Here’s the scoop from all around the AFC:
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore conquered Atlanta this week by a score of 27-23 on Thursday. While Ed Dickson is looking uncertain for week 1, Bernard Pierce resumed practice this week. Also, injured TE Dennis Pitta is not officially ruled out for the entire season. An accelerated rehab schedule may render him available toward the end of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals: AJ Green did not appear in Saturday’s preseason game, a 23-19 victory over Tennessee. Giovani Bernard and Mohamed Sanu led the way, each registering 30+ yards and a touchdown in the contest. Carlos Dunlap still has yet to be cleared after suffering a concussion over two weeks ago.
Cleveland Browns: Cleveland won decisively over Detroit on Thursday 24-6. Barkevious Mingo suffered a bruised lung in the game, and is expected to miss as many as three weeks. G Jason Pinkston left with a right ankle sprain, and backup RB Dion Lewis broke his leg. Preseason victories generally mean little, and injuries to this extent rendered this victory entirely pyrrhic.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh saw its share of good news this week, with a trio of players returning to practice. Nick Williams, Le’Veon Bell, and Cortez Allen all resumed activities this week, while Heath Miller will likely miss at least the first week of the season. Meanwhile, Markus Wheaton is making strides to join Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as the third receiver in the Steelers’ WR package.
Houston Texans: WR DeAndre Hopkins left the preseason contest against Miami this week with a concussion. He will likely miss next week’s preseason game, but no more additional time. Ed Reed is looking more doubtful than expected to be available for week 1. Reports also indicate the back and calf injuries to star RB Arian Foster may also sideline him for the opening game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A sprained thumb of Blaine Gabbert will leave him day to day. The Jets stomped them 37-13, but Jax finally saw action from Maurice Jones-Drew and suspended WR Justin Blackmon. At full steam, the Jags have a respectable number of weapons at skill spots, but inconsistency, suspensions and their sufficiently wanting defense render them a long shot to compete this season.
Tennessee Titans: Tennessee lost in a tight contest to the Bengals this week, and also lost Kendall Wright for a stretch with a sprained right knee. While they temporarily lost one WR, Kenny Britt returned to action this week and could be a force to be reckoned with should he remain healthy. Delanie Walker is expected to miss the entire preseason, while RG Chance Warmack has emerged as a standout performer in camp.
Indianapolis Colts: TE Dwayne Allen is no longer using a walking boot as his rehab progresses. Colby Fleener also returned to action this week after suffering a concussion. Ahmad Bradshaw appears to be at full strength, and is poised to take a leading role in the Indy running game.
Buffalo Bills: Buffalo defeated Minnesota by a score of 20-16, with the good news of a sharp performance by E.J. Manuel undermined by his “minor knee procedure” this Sunday. No word yet on his availability week 1. Fred Jackson looked strong in the second contest, a battle-scarred backup at age 32.
Miami Dolphins: A violent injury to Dustin Keller’s knee ended his season and possibly his career. He tore his ACL, MCL and PCL. Lamar Miller scored a touchdown, while Daniel Thomas performed admirably in a backup role, rushing for 25 yards on just 4 carries. Mike Wallace was the standout, with 58 yards and a touchdown, but the injury to Keller severely stunts the ability of the Miami offense to function.
New York Jets: The Jets thrashed Jacksonville by a score of 37-13, causing all in New York to lament the sad reality that they can’t face Jacksonville 16 times per year. Sanchez played deep into the game, with an interception offsetting his touchdown. Quinton Coples broke his ankle, which could sideline him up to a month. Bilal Powell looked more sharp than Ivory in this contest, though Ivory’s action was limited due to his injury recovery.
New England Patriots: The Patriots survived a scare this week, as Tom Brady’s apparent knee injury did not sideline him from preseason action this week. Brady was surgical in his performance, going 11-12 for 107 yards and a touchdown. Zach Sudfield looked very sharp at the TE spot, with a touchdown reception and two point conversion reception in a bid to fill the vacated spot by Aaron Hernandez.
Denver Broncos: Denver lost huge to Seattle to the tune of 40-10 in another injury-riddled contest. Wes Welker suffered a minor ankle sprain which renders him day to day, while the sprain of Champ Bailey will likely sideline him for multiple weeks. Derek Wolfe also injured his neck, as Denver and its fans realize the preseason’s end cannot come soon enough.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs lost a close battle with San Francisco by a score of 15-13. Alex Smith looked flat and hurried, as the Chiefs were overwhelmed by the defensive pressure of the Niners. Jamaal Charles is back in action this Sunday after recovering from his foot strain.
San Diego Chargers: San Diego lost a close battle to Chicago, 33-28. The Chargers lost DB Steve Williams to a torn pectoral muscle, and also waived Danario Alexander due to his torn ACL. In an effort to bolster their WR depth, San Diego signed Seyi Ajirotutu on Friday.
Oakland Raiders: Oakland fell to New Orleans 28-20 in a hard fought battle this Friday. Matt Flynn was sacked five times, while an injury to TE David Ausberry’s shoulder will end his season. DB Tracy Porter also injured his groin in the Friday game. The Raiders can afford no injuries, and in fact need more capable roster occupants even if their entire team remains healthy.
This was a happy week for nearly no teams around the league. The structural injuries and key losses overwhelmed any semblance of positive takeaways for nearly the entire AFC. The league, its teams, and its fans continue to hold their breath that no other key losses result for the rest of the preseason. Keep it here for the latest updates on all things AFC, with a hope toward a healthier week.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.