49ers bucked this troublesome trend in 2023 (by staying healthy)

Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for San Francisco.

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead (91)
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Arik Armstead (91) / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Historically, the 49ers have been bit hard by the injury bug, but that wasn't the case in 2023.

San Francisco 49ers fans can recall just how dreadful the team's 2020 campaign was, at least in terms of injuries, as head coach Kyle Shanahan's team dominated the injury reports.

That year, according to the now-defunct Football Outsiders site, the Niners were by far the most-injured team in the NFL with an adjusted-games-lost metric of 166.6. For a team coming off a Super Bowl loss the previous season, those injuries were devastating in terms of getting back to the big game.

As a result, San Francisco stumbled to a 6-10 finish, missing the playoffs and finishing last in the NFC West.

The 2021 and 2022 campaigns were better but not by a large margin. At best, the Shanahan-era 49ers have either been in the middle of the pack, at best, or have been riddled by injury. This led to an inevitable rethinking by Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in terms of roster building, putting a bigger emphasis on players with better histories of health.

That approach seems to have worked out.

49ers were one of NFL's least-injured teams in 2023

Aaron Schatz, who used to compile the AGL metric for Football Outsiders over the years, put together the same data for FTNfantasy.com, and the 2023 season actually provided some positive analysis for the Niners.

San Francisco came in at 34.5, which was fourth lowest (best) in the league. In terms of the five least-injured squads, the list was as follows:

  1. Los Angeles Rams: 26.4
  2. Las Vegas Raiders: 26.8
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: 28.9
  4. San Francisco 49ers: 34.5
  5. Atlanta Falcons: 36.3

Granted, being healthy doesn't automatically equate to regular-season success, as only the 49ers and Rams made the postseason out of that group.

Still, it does help.

Likewise, the Houston Texans came in as the NFL's most-injured team in 2023, and the five most-injured squads are as follows, in terms of AGL:

  1. Houston Texans: 159.1
  2. New England Patriots: 128.0
  3. Carolina Panthers: 120.6
  4. Cleveland Browns: 108.0
  5. Arizona Cardinals: 100.1

Both the Texans and Browns made the playoffs, so the flip side can be equally true when it comes to deciding if injuries will wholly ruin a team's postseason chances.

But, when faced with the trend of having a lot of injuries, it's safe to assume the path to the playoffs is that much easier when it's not as big a factor.

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