For the second time in three years, J.J. Watt is expected to beat his recovery timetable and return for a playoff game. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is on track to play against the Rams on Monday.
The first-year Cardinals defensive end suffered a slew of upper-body injuries in Week 7 — a torn labrum, torn bicep, torn rotator cuff and a dislocated shoulder, per the report at the time — and underwent surgery. However, Watt is making the trip and, barring a setback, will suit up against the Rams, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link).
This would mark the second time Watt has completed an early return for a postseason slate. In 2019, Watt returned from a pectoral tear to suit up for the Texans’ two playoff tilts. A Watt return this time would also be a boon for the Cardinals’ defense, which is coming off allowing 38 points to the Seahawks in Week 18.
The Cards were 7-0 with Watt but 4-6 during the future Hall of Famer’s injury hiatus. Watt returned to practice this week and has not encountered any setbacks. While expecting the veteran defensive lineman to play his usual snap rate may be asking too much, a return to work alongside Chandler Jones certainly stands to help the underdog Cardinals in their first playoff game in six years.
Pro Football Focus rated Watt as a top-10 interior defensive lineman this season. The ex-Texans star worked more on the inside than he had in his final seasons in Houston. Watt, 32, registered five tackles for loss and 10 QB hits in his seven Cardinal games. While the Cards being without DeAndre Hopkins will make their upset bid tougher, Hopkins’ fellow Texas-to-Arizona trekker being in uniform could provide a boost.