No way they can be as injured as last year, right?
For the 2021 Ravens, injuries played more than just a leading role; it was Hamlet and MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet, combined. The preseason favorites to win the AFC North and compete for a championship were completely undone by torn ligaments and broken bones and soft-tissue ouchies. The playbook was replaced by Gray’s Anatomy. There were no pregame speeches, just a recitation of the Hippocratic Oath. Players were lost in training camp, in the preseason, in practices before the season began, and of course once the games kicked off. Among the wounded were the starting quarterback, the All-Pro left tackle, both lockdown cornerbacks, the first-round draft pick, and virtually the entirety of the running back room. By season’s end the depth chart more closely resembled a USFL/AAF roster.
Still, this kind of thing happens. John Feinstein spent the 2004 season embedded with the Ravens, and that campaign was so marked by carnage the book he wrote about it was literally called Next Man Up. Teams lose promising seasons to injuries all the time. The Ravens had it tough last year, but let’s not get carried away.
Actually, let’s get carried away. The Ravens led the NFL in our Adjusted Games Lost metric, which factors in starters who go down vis-a-vis reserves, as well as guys who play despite being dinged. The Ravens didn’t just lead the league—it was Secretariat at the Belmont-level domination. But being the team hit worst by injury in 2021 was merely peanuts. Turns out, Baltimore suffered more injuries than any other team this century (Table 1).
Even factoring in the newfangled 17th game, Baltimore topped this unfortunate chart on a per-16-game basis. What these numbers tell you, other than that the turf at MetLife Stadium needs to be ripped up immediately, is that the Ravens suffered historically bad injury luck in 2021. It also shows that despite the trauma Baltimore still managed to put up a semi-respectable DVOA. True, it was nearly 20 points below their mean projection of 17.6% from last year’s Almanac, a figure that made them the favorites to represent...