Injury Impact

Injury Impact

Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and a torn ACL Tuesday in a noncontact drill at practice. The Minnesota Vikings said the injury would end the young quarterback’s 2016 season. Sunday, Tony Romo broke a bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys have not issued a timetable for the quarterbacks return.

What impact will these and future injuries have on their respective teams? To answer that question we turn to Football Outsiders Adjusted Games Lost. This metric quantifies how teams are affected by injuries. It doesn’t simply added up the number of games missed, it also accounts for the player’s impact on the team (injuries to starters matter more than to a replacement level talent).

What is interesting about adjusted games lost is that the correlation between the metric and the number of regular season wins in 2015 was -0.32 (in line with the average over the years). This means that there is not a strong relationship between the number of adjusted games lost and team performance. That is because a team can overcome injuries as long as they don’t occur to certain players.

This is bad news for the Cowboys and Vikings. Losing your franchise quarterback at the start of the season rarely ends well. Last year for example, Dallas had the fifth best adjusted games lost score. The ‘Boys stayed relatively healthy expect for key injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant early in the year. The team managed just four wins without their stars.

Similarly, the correlation between adjusted games lost and against-the-spread wins is weak (-0.16 in 2015). This makes sense, bookmakers adjust the lines for known injuries. However, an injury to a starting quarterback can be hard to overcome regardless of how much the oddsmakers move the line. Sticking with the Cowboys example from a year ago, Dallas went just 4-11-1 ATS, -7.3 units (least profitable team in football).

The injuries to Romo and Bridgewater are just the beginning. For some teams when the injury bug bites it won’t be to key players and the team will be able to overcome the losses. Unfortunately, Dallas and Minnesota were not as lucky.

RankTeam2015 AGLATS Record
1Cincinnati Bengals28.213-3
2Atlanta Falcons28.86-10
3Seattle Seahawks40.18-7-1
4Carolina Panthers50.911-5
5Dallas Cowboys51.74-11-1
6Philadelphia Eagles527-9
7Kansas City Chiefs54.98-8
8New Orleans Saints56.18-7-1
9Green Bay Packers56.29-7
10Denver Broncos56.78-8
11Oakland Raiders57.68-8
12Minnesota Vikings5913-3
13New York Jets61.68-6-2
14Arizona Cardinals62.59-7
15Miami Dolphins63.45-11
16Houston Texans64.89-7
17Indianapolis Colts65.18-8
18Tennessee Titans65.24-11
19Pittsburgh Steelers67.19-6-1
20Jacksonville Jaguars68.97-8-1
21Cleveland Browns70.76-10
22Tampa Bay Buccaneers757-9
23Detroit Lions76.77-9
24St. Louis Rams80.37-8-1
25Buffalo Bills80.58-7
26San Francisco 49ers83.97-9
27San Diego Chargers88.58-8
28Chicago Bears92.88-8
29New England Patriots93.37-7-2
30Baltimore Ravens96.15-9
31Washington Redskins119.19-7
32New York Giants138.78-7-1

©2016 Sports Insights Inc.

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