With regards to the DVOA Discussion in this week's Ratings thread, I must admit that I'm chalking up the Chargers' struggles this year to an absolutely atrocious run defense, thanks primarily to the absence of the injured Jamal Williams.
Of course, the run defense even with Williams hasn't been great, so perhaps there's more to it than that. Regardless, it got me thinking that I should run our injury metrics through the first six weeks of this year's season.
The data below includes the first six weeks of the season, but not players who were injured in Week 6 and then went on IR, so the likes of Antwan Odom are not included. It also does not include the AGL we know players will gather later on in the season, so while we know that Brian Urlacher will accrue 15.0 AGL by the end of the year, he's only counted in the table below for 4.0 AGL, having missed games in Weeks 2, 3, 4, and 6. Since not all teams have played the same amount of games, the AGL totals for each team are adjusted for the number of games played.
Finally, please note that this is position-adjusted AGL and not the new "HGL" metric discussed in our New York Times article from earlier this year.
Some interesting things to note:
- Baltimore has gone from the second-most injured team in the league a year ago to one of the league's healthiest.
- Teams like Cincinnati and Seattle remain among the most-injured teams in the league, although they aren't as injured through six weeks as they were a year ago. Meanwhile, Kansas City and Tennessee are among the league's healthiest teams for the third consecutive year, despite their poor records.
- Although Denver has a decent amount of players listed as Probable and Questionable, the only players of note who I believe have missed games are Correll Buckhalter and Ben Hamilton. (The data used above doesn't factor in whether the players in question actually missed the game or not.)
That surprising Denver defense has been buoyed by the fact that their starters have made it through six consecutive games without, from what I can tell, a single missed start.
Just because a team is suffering through injuries now doesn't mean that they'll be doing so at the end of the year, necessarily. While we know that injuries rise at a roughly linear rate throughout the season, there were six teams that actually averaged more AGL per week through the first six weeks of last season than they did in the final 11 (after adjusting for bye weeks). They included playoff teams in Arizona, Carolina, Philadelphia, and San Diego, along with non-playoff teams in Jacksonville and Seattle.
The four teams that saw the biggest rise in injuries over the last 11 weeks a year ago did not fare very well. The Lions and Rams combined for a 1-21 record, while the Broncos went 4-6 and fell out of the playoffs, and the Bengals went 4-5-1.
While we can't predict who will get injured between now and the end of the year, we can take a look at the players who were placed on IR in the first six weeks (again, not including Week 7 guys like Odom or Kris Jenkins) who we know are going to be missing time.
The team that stands out as the likely Champions of AGL (an award the 2007 Dolphins and, so far, the 2008 Bengals rode to success in the following season) are the Buffalo Bills. Although they're only seventh in AGL at the moment, the presence of Brad Butler, Leodis McKelvin, Kawika Mitchell, and Derek Schouman on IR mean that they're going to accrue 40 AGL between now and the end of the 2009 season. Only one other team -- Philadelphia -- is above 20 AGL the rest of the way, at 22. (The Bengals will join them when Odom is factored in, starting next week.)
The teams with 20 AGL on the way include Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. The teams without any impending AGL are Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, and Tennessee.