Football Outsiders keeps a statistic called “Adjusted Games Lost” which tries to quantify how injured a team is on a year-to-year basis going beyond simply adding up days on the DL:
“For those unfamiliar with AGL, we do not simply add up the number of games missed. We are able to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters, injury replacements and important situational reserves (No. 3 wide receiver, nickel corner, etc.) matter more than injuries to benchwarmers; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, which is why AGL is based not strictly on whether the player was active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's game status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful, questionable, or probable).”
Conventional wisdom (at least as I see it) holds the Green Bay Packers to be one of the most injured teams in football and that was true at one point, but it really hasn’t been for a few years now. 2016 was no exception to that new rule. The Packers were very average, ranking 15th in AGL. In the division, only Detroit was healthier, and just barely so ranking 14th, with Minnesota (30th) and Chicago (32nd) bringing up the rear. Chicago was historically unhealthy, losing 155.1 games to injury last season.
The Packers did have their unhealthiest year since 2013, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t that bad, and certainly better than the catastrophic run up to 2013 that actually led Mike McCarthy to change his practice regimen to great effect.
Packer AGL, Previous 5 Seasons
Packers Adjusted Games Lost
(Rankings note: 1st place indicates the fewest AGL while 32nd indicates the most AGL.)
But AGL only captures some information, and while the Packers enjoyed fantastic health at quarterback, receiver, and offensive line, it is important to note that the injuries they did suffer were concentrated on the defense. While a more equitable distribution may have allowed them to weather the storm better, the fact that the secondary was so beaten up combined with Nick Perry’s broken hand (among other factors) led to a disproportionately tragic breakdown on defense.
Injuries, with a few exceptions, are mostly random, and Packer fans should not count on any help from regression to the mean next season in shear volume of injuries, however they may benefit from a more normal distribution. If the defense is healthier, they should be better even if the offense takes a few additional lumps. That said, in the aggregate, they were average in 2016 and they are likely to be average again in 2017.
The Bears and Vikings are another story. The Bears, especially seemed almost comically snake-bitten last season losing 155.1 games to injury, more than double the Packers’ total, and one of the highest totals ever measured by Football Outsiders. If you are looking for a team likely to be healthier in 2017, keep an eye on the Bears who may be surprisingly good on the defensive side next season.