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Football Outsiders Almanac 2018 Preview Q&A: Going deep

In Part IV of our season preview with FO, we peek behind the curtain on the O-line.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’re partnering with Football Outsiders again this year to promote the release of the Football Outsiders Almanac 2018. FO continues to raise the bar for quantitative analysis, and the 2018 almanac is proof positive. In our five-part preview, we’ll look at how they modeled the 2017 Los Angeles Rams and what they’re looking at for 2018 with FO’s Bryan Knowles (@BryKno).

Pt. I: An offense renewed

Pt. II: Defense rising

Pt. III: Gurley for MVP?

Is depth a major factor for evaluation? As a Rams fan, I’m comfortable with the starting offensive line. I’m incredibly worried about relying on the depth for long stretches. How does FO account for the nature of the unpredictability of injury?

Depth is definitely important, and it is something to worry about for Los Angeles. The Rams have led the league in Adjusted Games Lost each of the last two seasons – they’ve been the healthiest team in the league. That is not something that sticks from year to year; while some teams may be better or worse at helping their players recover from injuries, no team has shown a consistent ability to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. The Rams were the healthiest team we’ve seen in the past seven seasons, and that’s almost certainly going to come back towards average in 2018. That’s baked into the concept of regression; our models and predictions are based around the idea of injuries evening out over time, so teams like the Rams (who were unusually healthy) or the Bears (who were unusually unhealthy) get adjusted up or down accordingly. We’re not saying the Rams are due for a rash of injuries, because that’s not how statistics work. It is likely, however, that their injury luck will not continue. That ties back in with the Plexiglass Principle; it’s one of those luck factors that are more or less outside a team’s control, and is part of why the Rams’ projection isn’t quite as high as their 2017 performance.

We already know we’ll see the Rams’ offensive line depth tested. While they had the same starting five for every game last season (except for the meaningless Week 17 matchup), Jamon Brown is suspended for the first two games of the season. Little things like that can add up, and it brings the untested depth to the forefront. It’s one of the biggest question marks the Rams face in 2018.