You’d be hard pressed to talk to a Detroit Lions fan and try to convince them that injuries weren’t at least part of the reason the team failed down the stretch. Injuries to Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Travis Swanson, DeAndre Levy, Ezekiel Ansah and even Matthew Stafford undoubtedly had an immense factor on how the Lions performed in December and beyond.
But comparatively speaking, the Lions didn’t have it all that bad. Football Outsiders calculated every team’s injury impact in 2016 using a stat they call “Adjusted Games Lost.” Here’s how Football Outsiders defines the stat:
Measurement of the cost of injuries, both in terms of missed games and games where players were not able to play to their full potential. Estimates a number of games based on whether players are listed as Probable, Questionable, Doubtful, or Out.
Note: The NFL got rid of the “Probable” designation this year, so their methods changed a bit, which was discussed in the linked article above.
According to Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Lions ranked 14th in terms of health (fewest amount of adjusted games lost). The Chicago Bears were by far the most injured team in the league, while the Vikings weren’t far behind, ranking 30th. The Packers, on the other hand, ranked just a spot below Detroit at 15th.
Football Outsiders’ methods aren’t perfect. Take someone like Matthew Stafford, who was arguably significantly hindered by a finger injury in his final four games of the year. Stafford did not appear on a single Friday injury report, meaning he was not part of Football Outsiders’ calculations.
Still, it’s important to see things in their proper context. While the Lions certainly weren’t immune to the injury bug—especially at a position like linebacker—in general, they dealt with injuries at an average rate in 2016. It’s undeniable that the Lions benefited from the misfortune of the Vikings and Bears, whose rosters were decimated by injuries all year.
As I had mentioned before, this fact will likely lead some to believe the Lions are due for a regression next season. “Injury luck” tends to average out over long periods of time, so many analysts are likely to pick out both the Vikings and Bears as team that will make a jump next year.