The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been a healthy team this season, which has been a key reason for their eventual failure to make the playoffs — and one reason to be optimistic about next season. Injury impact tends not to carry over from one year to the next.
Over at ESPN, Kevin Seifert ranked every potential playoff (yes, including the Bucs) on their health, and decided that the Bucs ranked 12th out of 14 teams — ahead of only the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins, mostly because those two teams just lost their starting quarterbacks.
The Buccaneers are especially thin at running back after losing Doug Martin to an NFL suspension. Charles Sims (knee) is on injured reserve, as is Antone Smith (knee). Their 640 team rushing yards since Week 10 ranks No. 26 in the NFL. The loss of receiver Vincent Jackson after five games robbed the Bucs of a playmaker opposite Mike Evans, although Evans has still caught a career-high 91 passes -- tied for fifth in the NFL. The Bucs are also missing their top two right tackles from practice this week, Demar Dotson (concussion) and Gosder Cherilus (groin/ankle).
That’s a neat summary of the Bucs’ injury issues, which have been quite severe this season. While they haven’t had a lot of players end up on injured reserve (only 11 players wound up there, tied for 13th in the NFL), they’ve had a litany of key starters missing games — most notably Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, but also J.R. Sweezy (missed the entire season), Joe Hawley, Gerald McCoy and Luke Stocker.
I like to have numbers to measure this kind of thing, though, and Seifert used one from Man-Games Lost, which tries to measure the impact of injuries by looking at players’ impact in the previous season. By that metric, the Bucs are the sixth-most injured team in the entire NFL. That’s a nice indicator that Tampa Bay has been very unlucky.
All of which bodes well for next year. There’s no evidence that injuries are anything other than bad luck, which means we should expect an averagely healthy 2017 Bucs team — and hopefully one healthy enough to actually get to the playoffs.