In a pivotal AFC clash scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 31, the Baltimore Ravens (12-3) will host the Miami Dolphins (11-4) in a game that will decide who earns a bye week in the first week of the playoffs and who will have to keep fighting to win their division in Week 18 on the regular-season finale.
Both teams will face challenges and when it comes to navigating injuries this late in the season, the two squads might miss a top-tier playmaker when they meet on the field to put a cap to the week--and the 2023 calendar year. According to the latest reports and leaks, wide receivers Zay Flowers and Jaylen Waddle might very well sit on Sunday.
Flowers, a rookie but surely the best receiver for Baltimore this season, missed practice again on Thursday due to a recent calf injury. While nothing has been confirmed, his participation in Sunday's game remains uncertain as he's been seen sporting a walking boot of late.
For the Dolphins, both superstars WR Jaylen Waddle and RB Raheem Mostert are coming off back-to-back DNP to start the week. The latter is expected to play or at the very least be a game-time decision to appear on Sunday, but the former has been "internally" ruled out for the game at Baltimore, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
The Ravens also listed cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis (concussion), inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (shoulder), and cornerback Brandon Stephens (ankle) as absentees from Thursday's practice.
JAD can nearly be considered out for Sunday after going from "limited" to DNP, while the other two DNPs are perhaps even more worrying as none of Stephens nor Phillips made the report on Wednesday.
Safety Kyle Hamilton, who suffered a knee injury against the 49ers and was ruled out of Monday's game before it was over, returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday after missing the first session of the week a day earlier. His status for Sunday remains in question.
Hamilton spoke to the media after practicing, sounding optimistic about his availability but also a bit cautious. "It's day by day. I'm still evaluating. [It's a] short week. [We've] got a day less to kind of evaluate everything, but I'm going to do everything I can to make it to the game," Hamilton said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.
On the offensive front, linemen Kevin Zeitler and Patrick Mekari were also limited, with Mekari donning a red no-contact jersey and a protective helmet as he's going through the concussion protocol trying to clear it in time for Sunday.
The list of limited players on Thursday also included cornerback Arthur Maulet and punter Jordan Stout, who both were already limited the day before.
For the Dolphins, Waddle's reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain in the win against the Dallas Cowboys last week. He's more than probably going to miss the second-to-last game of the season with Miami already in possession of a postseason berth.
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Raheem Mostert, despite missing the first two practices of the week, is expected to play. Mostert is tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns, and he'd be dearly missed by Miami if he is ruled out.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the best player in Miami's roster, was limited in practice on Thursday putting his availability for the upcoming game in peril. Both teams can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win but it looks like none of them won't have it easy on Sunday given the injuries impacting them.