J.J. Watt. Whitney Mercilus. Kevin Johnson. Deshaun Watson. These four players who played significant roles in the Texans’ 4-12 season simply by not playing at all. Watt broke his leg and Mercilus tore his pectoral muscle against Kansas City. Johnson hurt his knee against Cincinnati and was a combination of bad and injured after that. Watson, the only light remaining on this team, tore his ACL in practice in early November.
Last year we all said, and it was true, that the Texans were devastated by injuries. But how devastated were they? That we couldn’t say. Fortunately, that measurement issue is solved by Football Outsiders’ statistic “Adjusted Games Lost.” This is how it’s defined in their glossary:
Measurement of the cost of injuries, both in terms of missed games and games where players were not able to play to their full potential. Estimates a number of games based on whether players are listed as Probable, Questionable, Doubtful, or Out. Introduced in Pro Football Prospectus 2008 essay, “The Injury Effect.”
In 2017, the Texans didn’t rank last in adjusted games lost. That distinction belongs to Washington. Instead, Houston ranked 29th, with 107.3 adjusted games lost. That’s a rank and figure that’s worse than the 22nd the Texans finished the previous season, when they had 93.0 adjusted games lost.
Teams can’t directly control injuries. It’s usually something that varies year to year. A team that’s unhealthy in one season is usually healthier the next, and a team that’s healthy in one season usually has a few more injury challenges the next season. Last year, the Texans went from smashed to obliterated in terms of adjusted games lost, and their record showed it. Hopefully in 2018 all of those sighs of if only they stayed healthy actually becomes reality, and the Texans end up flipping their placement on this list.