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Just The Sports: The New York Giants And Injuries

Just The Sports

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The New York Giants And Injuries

Injuries are the price every football team has to pay for playing the sport, but the New York Giants seemingly have been decimated by them, losing two key players on both offense and defense for extended periods of time. Of course, not every injury is going to affect a team's future performance in the same manner so in order to gauge the true impact of a lost player one must employ splits of the team's statistics with the player and without the player. When the injuries occurred before halftime, I counted that game as being one the Giants played without the man who went down; after halftime, I denoted that game as being one the Giants played with the man.

Now that we have settled that issue, the first order of business is to talk about how the Giants offense was affected after losing two main cogs of their offense, possession receiver Amani Toomer and left tackle Luke Petitgout. Understandably, the losses of a wide receiver and a left tackle will affect the quarterback the most so Eli Manning's performances are the true key to answering the question of how much those two injuries played in the Giants struggling down the stretch.

If you thought that not having Amani Toomer to throw to would force Manning to overthrow Plaxico Burress even more than usual and would lower his completion percentage greatly, then you are not alone for I thought the same. However, that is not actually the case. Yes, Eli Manning's completion percentage dropped from 61.3% with Toomer and Petitgout on the field to 54.9% after they were injured, but it was not a difference of a statistically significant nature. Therefore, there is no evidence to suggest that his lesser completion percentage statistics are the result of anything other than random variation.

Furthermore, there is the matter of yards per pass attempt and yards per catch. Concerning yards per pass attempt, there are those of the gross variety and those of the net variety. When it comes to gross yards per pass attempt, Eli Manning has seen a statistically significant decline with Toomer and Petitgout off the football field (7.1 to 5.5). This statistical difference then disappears when looking at net yards per pass attempt, meaning that Manning, in the first eight games of the season, lost more gross yardage per pass attempt than he has in the seven games since. Interestingly, yards per catch was a statistically significant decline both for gross yards and net yards on pass plays.

Although it would be easy to assign all of these declines to the aforementioned injuries, it is more than likely a result of playing teams with tougher pass defenses in the second half of the season. In the first eight games, Manning and the Giants faced two teams in the top sixteen for pass defense under Football Outsider's metrics. For the next seven, they have faced only two teams not in the top sixteen when it comes to pass defense.

In addition, one would think that the loss of starting linebacker LaVar Arrington and starting defensive end/pass rush specialist Michael Strahan would have a negative impact on the Giants defense. If that is the case, Arrington would disappoint you because his loss has done nothing to make the Giants defense worse. Part of this could be because he only appeared in five full games before succumbing to injury and part of it could be attributed to the fact he has largely become overrated as a defensive player. On the other hand, Michael Strahan's Lisfranc injury hurt the Giants most on pass defense. Comparing the games Michael Strahan played to the ones he was injured during, Giants' opponents are significantly better in completion percentage (56.5% to 62.0%), gross yards per pass attempt (6.3 to 7.3), and net yards per pass attempt (5.5 to 6.9). Worth mentioning is the fact that the opponents' pass statistics improved while Strahan was absent, despite being a little worse in the passing game than the teams Strahan played. Obviously, Strahan is a lot more important than Arrington to the Giants' success.

For the offense, it is not so certain whether their poorer play in these last seven games has been the result of Amani Toomer and Luke Petite being out or playing better defenses than in their first eight contest. One thing is certain, though. The Giants have sorely missed Michael Strahan while he was nursing a foot injury.



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