Injuries can derail the most talented teams. I don’t think I’m breaking news with that statement. The Philadelphia Eagles’ 2018 season was a battle of attrition, one that nearly kept them out of the playoffs. Despite that, they were able to make a push into the playoffs and even beat the Chicago Bears on the road in the Wild Card round. When you quantify just how banged up the Eagles were, that’s quite an achievement.
Quantifying the impact of mounting injuries is what Football Outsiders does. Their “adjusted games lost” metric or “AGL” takes into account a number of factors before spitting out a score that illustrates a teams’ struggle to stay healthy.
“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, receiving backs, 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 is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player’s game status that week (out, doubtful, questionable or probable/Blank).”
Note: Recently they’ve made a change to their definition on “situational reserve” by leaning on snap counts, but the rest is unchanged.
72 teams have made the playoffs in the past 6 years; their average AGL ranking is 13.7. Of those playoff bids, nearly double the amount came from top ten ranked teams (40%) than teams ranked in the bottom ten (21%). 9 of the last 12 conference champions checked in towards the top half of the league in AGL. 5 of the last 6 Super Bowl Champions came from the top half of the healthiest teams. The lone exception being last years New England Patriots (18th).
Sidebar: The 2016 Los Angeles Rams were the only team in the last eight years to miss the playoffs after coming in as the healthiest team in the league. If you see a chance to take one last shot at Jeff Fisher, you take it.
Despite missing some key contributors in their 2017 Super Bowl run, the Eagles still checked in relatively healthy overall, ranking 13th. Next year was an entirely different story.
The Eagles ranked 31st in AGL in 2018, making their success highly improbable. How improbable? Their AGL score for playoff teams from 2013-2018 is bested (worsted? is that a word?) by the one-and-done Washington Redskins in 2015. In that same span, the Eagles had the worst score of any team that won a playoff game.
The only other team to score nearly that poor and advance in the playoffs were the Frank Reich led Indianapolis Colts last year. It’s a testament to Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, and the coaching staff as a whole. They’ve built and coached up a winner that can still score a knockout when in the deep water. Even Jason Kelce stated that the Eagles were one injured right guard away from advancing to the NFC Championship Game.
The question becomes if it was just bad luck or a sign of something more sinister? The Eagles medical staff shake-up after their Super Bowl run raised eyebrows and a lot of questions.
“Perhaps it had to do something with the public criticism from former players. To this day, former Philly linebacker Emmanuel Acho is still ripping the Eagles’ medical staff, calling them “suspect.” As a member of the Bills, Jordan Matthews said he received “two really bad diagnoses” from the Eagles’ staff. Former Philadelphia draft pick Earl Wolff has shared some examples of misdiagnoses as well.”
The hope is last year was an aberration. If it was merely a blip then the Eagles are set up for success with a deep roster and top notch coaching. Expecting the Eagles to make a serious run isn’t a lofty goal. Of course, that always comes with the qualifier.. “if healthy”. Even if not at full strength, they’ve shown they can withstand the storm and be dangerous anyway.