NFL Offseason – Usually, train wreck results in injuries. However, in the NFL, injuries help train crashes. That was certainly the case in Denver this season, as the Broncos led the NFL in adjusted football games lost a metric that measures injuries to starters and important position players.
No, injuries do not explain Russell Wilson’s decline and fall, nor do they mitigate Nathaniel Hackett’s bizarre coaching decisions. But a middling healthy Denver team might have finished the year 7-10 instead of 5-12. This is a disappointing season, but not a disaster.
The Broncos finished with a 148.6 AGL, which gives them a decent lead over the rest of the league. Tennessee is ranked second and the Los Angeles Rams are ranked third. However, the gap between the Broncos and Titans was greater than the gap between the Titans and the eighth-ranked team, the Baltimore Ravens.
A quick look at the teams with the lowest and lowest AGL shows the importance of injuries in determining which teams will be successful and make it to the postseason. Of the ten teams with the most AGLs, three have made the postseason. This includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have won their division with a losing record, along with the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers, further underscoring the solid coaching performances of Brian Dabul and Kyle Shanahan.
The Pittsburgh Steelers finished with a league-low 32.0 AGL and missed the playoffs, but the next four teams with the lowest AGL made it to the postseason. Jacksonville came in second, Super Bowl teams Philadelphia and Kansas City finished third and fourth, and Minnesota ranked fifth. Seattle and Cincinnati also made the playoffs while finishing among the ten teams with the least AGL.
For more than a decade, Football Outsiders has collected data from the NFL’s weekly injury reports and turned it into lost adjusted matches. We also have the data that goes way back, covering the entire 21st century. Lost modified games don’t just add up to total injuries. It accounts for both absent players and those playing at less than 100%, and gives more weight to injuries to starters and situational players than to expected backups. As such, the AGL estimates the impact of injuries on teams and provides a similar total that often succinctly explains why teams are improving or declining from year to year.
Total AGL for the entire league decreased slightly in 2022 (3.3%) compared to 2021 numbers that do not include COVID absences. HRPS per 16 game was higher than in 2020, lower than in 2019, and about the same as in 2018. Overall, the NFL’s injury total appears to be fairly flat over the past few years after gradually rising over the period from 2006 to 2016.
While Denver had the most AGLs in the league this year, the Broncos did not Historical AGL number. The Broncos fell well short of last year’s record Baltimore total of 191.2 AGL, and the team finished below the top AGL teams from both 2019 and 2020 even though those seasons only had 16 games each.
Denver The dreadful approached It started when wide receiver Tim Patrick tore his knee in training camp, and the wide receiver was where the Broncos had the most AGL. KJ Hamler also missed half of the season while Jerry Goody, Courtland Sutton and Kendall Hinton all missed games. On the offensive line, the Broncos went without left tackle Garrett Bowles for two-thirds of the season and center Lloyd Cushenberry for half, while Quinn Meiners missed four games and Dalton Reisner struggled with injuries all over his body all season despite starting 15 games. On defense, the biggest problems came at the defensive back position, as Ronald Darby was gone after Week 5, Justin Simmons missed time in September and October, and Kwan Williams was in injury report with elbow and wrist problems all season.
Here we go with the numbers. Hopefully this isn’t confusing, but the ranks go from best (fewest casualties) to worst (most injuries).
Note that the AGL numbers for Buffalo and Cincinnati include the canceled Week 17 game, based on that week’s injury report and who was on injured reserve at the time.
The Los Angeles Rams saw the biggest spike in injuries during 2021, playing a key role in the team’s fall from Super Bowl champions to a spot near the bottom of the league. The Rams’ offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, but they also have plenty of AGL from their defensive backs and wide receiver. Even at quarterback, the Rams not only lost their starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but also John Walford.
The Baltimore Ravens had the largest drop in injuries compared to 2021, but still finished 25th in the AGL because they set an all-time AGL record two years ago.
Do the same teams seem to finish high (or low) in the AGL every year? Your eyes do not deceive you. Despite what we’ve seen from the Ravens over the past couple of years, this hasn’t been a long-term problem in Baltimore. In the previous three years, Baltimore had placed first (2018), sixteenth (2019), and eighth (2020 without COVID) in the AGL. However, other teams show more consistency:
- Denver has been ranked in the bottom 10 in the AGL for four straight seasons.
- Arizona has been ranked lower than 20 in the AGL for seven straight seasons.
- Washington has been ranked under 20 in the AGL for nine straight seasons.
- San Francisco has been ranked under 20 in the AGL for an impressive 10 straight seasons.
On the other side…
- Atlanta has been in the AGL’s top ten in seven of the past eight seasons.
- Buffalo has been above average in the AGL for six straight seasons.
- Pittsburgh has been in the top 10 in the AGL in six of the past seven seasons.
- The Los Angeles Rams were in the top 10 in the AGL for six straight seasons until they crashed in 2022.
We want to believe that infections are completely random, but there is evidence here that they are not. Certainly, the numbers at the extremes are going to taper toward the average from year to year. It’s very unlikely that injury will again decimate the Broncos in 2023 as it will in 2022. Teams like Jacksonville and Pittsburgh (especially on offense, as you’ll see below) will suffer more injuries in the future. season. However, there is real consistency in the AGL aggregates. If we exclude players who missed games due to COVID, the year-to-year correlation coefficient for the AGL in 2021 and 2022 was .40. Over the past decade, removing COVID games in both 2020 and 2021, the year-to-year correlation for the AGL was 0.29.
Next question is Why There appears to be a year-to-year correlation for AGL. It’s an important question for NFL teams to answer, but I’m not entirely sure how to answer it. Is it related to the grass in some stadiums? Are some players more prone to injury and certain teams more willing to overlook this weakness when compiling their rosters? Is the problem with specific coaching staff and how they do their jobs? NFL PA may have tried to answer that last question recently…
(Briefly aside: It’s worth noting that AGL has a lot less Correlation from year to year in the first few years we compiled it for, particularly from 2002 to 2008. Whether that was due to a change in how we identify players for the purposes of calculating the AGL or an actual change in terms of injuries in the NFL, I can’t answer. )
AGL vs. NFLPA scores
This year, for the first time, the American Football Players Association Issuing report cards The difference scores on their working conditions. Many categories can have ramifications for losing modified games, but two stood out in particular: staff training and training rooms.
Unfortunately, the scores for employee training won’t do us much good. Only three teams in the league received less than a B+: Kansas City at a D-, Washington at a D, and the Los Angeles Chargers at a C-. Obviously, it’s interesting that Washington’s rating is so low because we know the leaders have a lot of AGL every year. The Chiefs and Chargers haven’t been particularly high in the AGL over the past two seasons. but, Details of that class in Kansas City Give us something to watch from now on when it comes to how often Chiefs players are on the injury report. Chiefs players were very negative about head coach Rick Burkholder and expressed discouragement from reporting injuries and fear of retaliation for speaking out for better care. Could this be part of the reason the Chiefs have been so low in the AGL over the past two seasons?
There is a much wider distribution in grades for practice rooms, with everything from three teams in an A+ to three teams in an F-. (Report cards have very few normal Fs, which is odd.) A looked at the relationship between these scores and the AGL by converting the scores into GPA using the typical scale (A=4, B=3, F=0, higher or slightly less for +/-, etc.). And what I discovered was… nothing. The correlation between the coaching room score and the 2022 AGL was -0.004. Then I looked at the relationship between the combined coaching room score and injuries for 2021-2022. That was slightly better at -0.05, which means a better score means slightly fewer injuries in 2021-2022, but there’s still a lot more to come. There are plenty of good reasons for NFL teams to focus resources on improving their scores on the NFLPA report cards, especially in order to attract better free agents. Based on the AGL, it does not appear that improving these scores will improve the level of injuries each team suffers from during the season.
Attack versus defense
Looking at the split between the offensive and defensive AGL shows some huge gaps between each side of the ball, particularly for the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
Have you been wondering how the New York Jets improved from dead last in the defensive DVOA in 2021 to fifth in the league in 2022? The addition of young talent like Sauce Gardner certainly helped, as did the return of some stars from injury. It was nice to spend another year in Robert Saleh’s regime. But health played a huge role in the Jets’ defense playing well last season, as no team had less than an AGL on this side of the ball. Safety LaMarcus Joyner was the only player to miss more than two games, and he just missed three. However, the Jets were near the bottom of the league on AGL offense. As you’ll learn next week when we break things down by position, nearly all offensive linemen are linebackers (plus some Bryce Hall).
The Buffalo Bills also had a great split between offense and defense, but it went the other way. Mitch Morse was the only offensive rookie to miss more than two games, and he made less of an impact on the AGL because two of those weeks Morse was listed as questionable rather than out. Any starting offensive Bills went on injured reserve. But on defense, the Bills are ranked 31st in the AGL primarily due to defensive back injuries. Tre’Davious White missed half the year after returning from a torn 2021 ACL, Micah Hyde has been out for nearly the entire season, and Christian Benford has also missed big time. Losing six games to Daredevil star Von Miller didn’t help either.
The only team that lost more AGL on defense than Buffalo was Tennessee. The Titans lost significant time from the start on every defensive position except the inside linebacker. The defensive back has been a particularly big problem with Christian Fulton, Amani Hooker and Elijah Molden all suffering serious injuries. We didn’t even count Caleb Farley’s 2021 first-round selection as a positional MVP, but he’s also missed eight games in 2022.
Finally, we must point out the very small AGL offense that the Pittsburgh Steelers have put together. Their starting line-up in attack has missed two games all season. two! Kenny Pickett was inactive with a concussion in Week 15, and Pat Freymuth was inactive with a concussion in Week 6. That’s certainly one of the reasons the Steelers surprisingly came away with an 18th-ranked offensive DVOA despite their rookie quarterback.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the teams that struggled with the most AGL per position in 2022.
“Friendly food junkie. Lifelong introvert. Student. Avid coffee scholar. Unapologetic travel specialist. Zombie buff.”
Suns star Kevin Durant returns by scoring 16 points in his home run debut
Sources – DSG pays rights fees to the Padres to continue broadcasting games
Chief Football Officer Patrick Mahomes makes an exception for the Thursday Night Football changeover; Roger Goodell replies