The Seattle Seahawks were an anomaly in 2016. They were able to win despite being one of the most injured teams in the NFL.
It is no coincidence that the New England Patriots were both the NFL’s second-least-injured team and the Super Bowl champions. The NFL teams that avoid injuries win more. It really isn’t all that complicated.
It is important to remember that injuries are random. Older teams tend to average more injuries over a large enough sample size, but year-to year it is mostly noise.
That simple chart tells a lot of the story of the 2016 season. The Dolphins and Packers rose out of mediocrity to make the playoffs mostly because they didn’t suffer injuries like most of the NFL did. Tampa, Baltimore and Washington dealt with too many injuries over the course of the season, and couldn’t overcome them enough to make the playoffs.
The Seahawks were an obvious outlier. They were one of the NFL’s most-injured teams, and yet they still won their division and then won a playoff game. That doesn’t even include the fact that Russell Wilson played through a pair of gruesome injuries and avoided IR. That speaks to the quality of the overall talent on the roster.
The implications here are less obvious. As mentioned above, injuries are more random than anyone wants to believe. While keeping a roster young can improve a team’s odds of staying healthy, it won’t guarantee anything.
That fact alone demonstrated the importance of depth in the NFL. It is more than just overcoming injuries too. Depth allows a team to avoid some injuries as well. Just look at the 2013 Seahawks.
That team had arguably the deepest roster ever assembled in the salary cap era. It allowed them to only play Michael Bennett in about half the team’s defensive snaps. The rest of the defensive linemen played even less.
As a result, those players were rarely tired and over extended. Consequently, that team was able to avoid injury better than most teams can.
The Seahawks should be able to rebuild some of that depth this season. After 3-straight offseasons of leaking talent, Seattle finally has an opportunity to replenish the ranks. Hopefully this will lead them to another Super Bowl.