With the 2020 season rapidly approaching (maybe), the season predictions are starting to roll in. But what factors impacted the 2019 season that are likely to change in 2020? In this article I examine the injuries the AFC East faced, and their impact on the team. When purely looking at games missed due to injury or illness for the regular season, the Jets lead the way with 288 games missed. Dolphins and Patriots players missed 279 and 241 games respectively, with the Buffalo Bills enjoying a relatively healthy 2019 with players missing just 121 games. But this alone can be misleading without context. I put together a ranking system to evaluate lost value for each team called the VLTI (value lost to injury) index. VLTI is the sum of each player’s value times the number of games missed (GM). Player value will be assessed on a 3 point scale where 3 represents a starting QB or pro bowl caliber player, a 2 represents an average starter, and a 3 represents a below average starter or key contributor (a rotational DL/LB, slot CB, WR3, Kicker etc). Reserve/backup players that rarely play will get a 0 and not impact the VLTI.
The line by line results for VLTI, sorted from highest to lowest impact are at the bottom of the article, but the totals look like this:
For transparency, I treated Kelechi Osemele as a player who missed 13 games, even though he was technically out for 4. I chose to do this because he was cut for injury related reasons stemming from a dispute between team and personal doctors on shoulder surgery. Aqib Talib was treated as a 0 value as he was never going to play in Miami, and Kenyan Drake’s missed game for Miami was excluded as it was tied to trade situations. And don’t let Dolphins fans fool you, despite the 30 million dollar deal for Shaq Lawson, he never played more 50% of the defensive snaps for the Bills in a season.
As you can see, the Jets faced the most difficulty from injuries last year, with a VLTI of 309, 7.5 times greater than the Bills and 2.2xe what the Patriots faced. Dolphins players missed 9 fewer games than the Jets, but the Jets VLTI is 1.6x that of Miami as Miami had 6 reserve players miss all 16 games on IR. It should come as no surprise that the Jets had the most quality players miss time as well. On Defense, the Jets lost CJ Mosley, a 3 time all pro LB for 14 games, starting LB Avery Williamson for 16 games, and top 3 CBs Brian Poole, Blessaun Austin, and Trumaine Johnson for 20 games combined. Offensively they lost starters OG Osemele for 13 games, WR Quincy Enunwa for 15 games, TE Chris Herndon for 10 games, C Ryan Kalil for 9 games, OQ Brian Winters for 7 games and of course QB Sam Darnold for 3 games. Meanwhile, the best player to miss time for the Bills was split starter RB Devin Singletary, missing 3 games. The Bills worst injuries by VLTI were rotational DL Harrison Phillips missing 13 games, and swing OT Ty Nsekhe, missing 6. In total, the bills only lost 9 significant players to injury this year and only 1 player that ranked better than a rotational player. The Patriots weren’t as fortunate as the Bills but didn’t face catastrophe like the Jets, only losing OL starters David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn for significant time. Miami’s key injuries included pro bowlers Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard on defense, starting rookie WR Preston Williams, starting FS Bobby McCain and below average starters Jonathan Ledbetter and Danny Isidora.
So what does all this mean for the 2020 season? The Jets, by any objective metric will see the most improvement purely by getting healthy. They’ve already replaced older players like Osemele and Kalil, with younger talent that should be less injury prone as well. The Patriots offensive line will get a needed boost while Miami’s secondary shouldn’t be a who’s who of South Florida area Grocery Clerks and AAF flameouts. Buffalo on the other hand may have their depth tested next year as it’s incredibly unlikely to have a team stay that healthy for an entire season, let alone consecutive seasons. Now, time for some controversy. Injuries don’t change the past but if we assume average injuries for each team in 2019, I think the Jets finish with at least one more win taking them to 8-8 or better while the Bills would lose an additional game to finish at 9-7. New England and Miami had about average injury woes, with Miami’s numbers inflated due to the low quality of the roster. Just food for thought when making your 2020 predictions, Stay safe friends!
Apologize for the delay with this article. I will let it run until the weekend