The Buffalo Bills were the healthiest team in the NFL during the 2018 regular season when looking at total games lost to injury. According to Twitter user @ManGamesLostNFL, Buffalo lost only 85 games to injury this year. The Bills were joined in the bottom five by the Chicago Bears (97), Atlanta Falcons (107), New York Jets (136), and Los Angeles Rams (138).
While Buffalo may have only lost 85 games to injury, they had enough players injured in key positions that those injuries definitely had a tremendous impact on their season. Losing starting quarterback Josh Allen for four games forced the team to start Nathan Peterman and the then-recently un-retired Derek Anderson for three of those games. In those three contests, Peterman and Anderson combined to go 75-for-121 (62%) for 676 yards (5.59 YPA), 0 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions. The two combined to lead the Bills to 5, 6, and 9 points in those three games, all blowout losses.
The Bills also cycled through multiple punters on the season thanks to injury. Incumbent punter Colton Schmidt faced a challenge from rookie Cory Carter this summer, only to have the latter suffer a torn ACL in a pre-season game. Schmidt was replaced by Corey Bojorquez, who suffered a shoulder injury when he ran a fake field goal during a real field goal attempt. Bojorquez was averaging 45.1 yards per punt when he went on injured reserve, and after he was replaced by Schmidt, the Bills moved on from their former punter and brought in Matt Darr, who was even less effective than Schmidt. Overall, the injuries to the punters had an impact on Buffalo’s special teams, which took a big step backward in 2018.
Of course, not all injuries are of the variety where a player misses games. Rookie cornerback Taron Johnson suffered a shoulder injury during the season’s first week, but he continued to gut through the pain until December. Who knows how much the injury limited the diminutive slot corner in terms of tackling, and even though he had a strong season overall, it could have been even better if he were healthy.
Linebacker Matt Milano suffered a gruesome break to his lower leg late in the season, so he only missed three games overall. However, Buffalo’s defense clearly missed the versatile young linebacker, and they were forced to play an undrafted rookie (Corey Thompson) in Milano’s place. The Bills also lost their starting center, Russell Bodine, to a broken bone after ten games. He was replaced in the lineup by an ineffective Ryan Groy, making a weak Buffalo offensive line group even worse.
Kicker Stephen Hauschka was injured via a cheap shot during a game against the New York Jets, but he managed not to miss any time. Hauschka was clearly limited by back pain, however, as the normally strong-legged kicker missed short on routine boots of 42 yards in consecutive December weeks.
On the whole, Buffalo spent the 2018 season with the same players they wanted in their everyday starting lineup. However, a few key injuries in positions lacking depth helped to derail even further what was a tough season for the club. Shoring up those positions heading into next year will be imperative and, hopefully, the Bills can be as healthy as they were this season in 2019.