Year after year it appears to most fans that the Packers suffer more injuries than do most other teams in the league. Was this true in 2018, and if so, might this account for the team’s 6-9-1 record?
To help answer that question, I examined the NFL Injured Reserve List for last season. Being on this list basically means the player is done for the year, though a team may bring back two players after they’ve spent eight weeks on the list. The dates shown indicate when the player was placed on IR.
Packers Injured Reserve List
Defensive backs: Davon House (9/26); Ibraheim Campbell (12/4); Kevin King (12/5); Raven Greene (12/8); Will Redmond (12/22)
Defensive line: Muhammad Wilkerson (9/29); Mike Daniels (12/1); Kenny Clark (12/25)
Wide receivers: Geronimo Allison (11/6); Trevor Davis (12/1)
Running backs: Tra Carson (12/5); Aaron Jones (12/18)
Linebackers: Jake Ryan (missed the entire year); Nick Perry (11/24)
Offensive line: Byron Bell (12/12)
Taking roughly into account the value of the injured person to the team, and the number of games missed, I’d say the defensive line was the hardest hit.
Though five DBs made the list, only one, Kevin King, was what we think of as a starter; though King lost only four games to IR, he missed several more games due to lesser injuries.
Aaron Jones would not have been put on IR except that the season was almost over. The offensive line had only one person put on IR, and that was only for the final three weeks of the year.
The IR list grew almost exponentially: one player lost in preseason, two lost in September, none in October, two in November, and 10 lost in December. As with Aaron Jones, several of these late additions would probably not have been so designated if the injuries occurred earlier in the season. Putting them on IR opened up roster spaces so more replacements could be brought up.
The Packers placed 15 players on IR in 2018.
Of the 13 teams with 13 or fewer players going on IR, eight of them made the playoffs
Of the nine teams with 15 or more going on IR, only the Colts made the playoffs. Of the final four teams in the playoffs, the Rams landed 8 on the list, the Chiefs and the Patriots 10, and the Saints 11.
Of the lucky outliers, the Bears (only 5 put on IR) went 12-4, while the Bills (7) went 6-10.
The unfortunate Raiders (19 on IR) finished 4-12, and the snake-bit Redskins (24) finished 7-9.
We knew that a bunch of serious injuries is going to affect a team’s won-loss record. The above stats suggest, however, the influence of injuries is even more profound than I had thought.
The Gruden brothers never had a chance – Jon and his Raiders went 4-12, while Jay and his Redskins did very well to finish at 7-9. Heckuva job by Jay to almost wind up 50/50.
As for the Packers, they were in a 3-way tie for having the seventh most players put on IR. On the other hand, only seven of the 15 were what you’d call starter-quality guys. On the third-hand though, most of those were high-quality guys, including: Geronimo Allison, Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, Aaron Jones, Kevin King, and Nick Perry.
In sum, it was a fairly typical injury year for Green Bay. When it comes to defying the injury odds, you need look no farther than the 2010 Super-Bowl winning Packers. They went all the way despite putting 15 players on the IR list.
Bears Got Lucky
As for Mike Nagy, he started his head coaching career with good fortune on the injury front. Almost supernatural! Chicago’s five IR guys were: Sam Acho, Bryce Callahan, Rashard Fant, Don Sims, and Andrew Trumbetti. Huh? I never heard of them either. Only one, Callahan, has “starter” status, and even he got to play in 13 games before he was put on the list.
Had the Bears had the normal amount of serious injuries, the rest of this post suggests that they would have gone maybe 9-7. It looks to me like that 12-4 record was a fluke, and not to be repeated anytime soon.