The 2016 Minnesota Vikings were a promising team that was ultimately derailed by too many injuries to key players.
That synopsis is probably a little oversimplified, but it is a fairly apt quick-hit overview of how the season unfolded. The season started with a devastating injury to Teddy Bridgewater and ended with the team succumbing to an 8-8 record despite a 5-0 start. The injuries kept on piling up, especially along the offensive line. There is no doubt that the Vikings had some pretty poor injury luck in 2016.
But just how bad was it? Was it the worst in the league? Was it that much worse than the previous season?
Thanks to Football Outsiders and their Adjusted Games Lost metric, we are now able to answer those questions with more certainty.
(The short answers: pretty bad, surprisingly not, and quite a bit worse.)
In the article, Football Outsiders explains in great detail how they calculate the metric, which basically boils down to “man-games lost” for a season. There were some new wrinkles in their calculations this year thanks to new wrinkles in NFL injury reporting, but overall their numbers held fairly consistent with previous years.
After their tabulations, FO concluded that the Vikings had a grand total of 120.6 Adjusted Games Lost in 2016, which was the third-highest total in the league. By comparison, Minnesota had only 59.0 Adjusted Games Lost in 2015, which was 12th fewest.
Of course when your team is healthier, chances are that your team will play better. Nine of the twelve teams that made the postseason in 2016 were in the top half of the league in fewest Adjusted Games Lost. Staying healthy didn’t always translate to team success though. In fact, the top four teams in fewest Adjusted Games Lost (Rams, Titans, Bengals, and Eagles) all missed the playoffs.
So were the Vikings unfortunate with their injury luck in 2016? Definitely. But they didn’t even have the most adjusted games lost in their own division—that distinction went to the Bears, who had the most adjusted games lost since Football Outsiders has kept track of the metric dating back to 2000. (It should be noted that the league-wide average was also an all-time high due in part to the change in “questionable” status injury reporting the NFL started enforcing last year.)
Hopefully the Vikings will be more durable than they were in 2017. With the razor-thin margins for error in the NFL, their health could make the difference between a playoff run and starting mock drafts in mid-November.