The New England Patriots have reached the league's final four in each of the past five seasons. That's an incredible accomplishment and one that teams in the modern NFL shouldn't be able to achieve.
What hurts is that injuries have prevented the Patriots from reaching five straight Super Bowls.
Using data from Man Games Lost, an injury tracking website, we find that the Patriots have suffered the 3rd most injuries in the league over the past five seasons. Imagine what this team could have accomplished if it weren't for those injuries.
1. Indianapolis Colts - 1099 games lost since 2011
2. New York Giants - 1095
3. New England Patriots - 1082
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - 1032
5. Carolina Panthers - 969
While the Patriots and Colts have been on roughly the same page, at least neither team is the Giants. New York offered the smallest standard deviation for injuries, which means that they're consistently at the bottom of the league.
The Patriots ranked the 8th most injured when the reached the Super Bowl in 2011, and the 17th most injured when they won it all in 2014. The team ranked 4th most injured in 2012 and 2013, and the most injured in 2015.
So, basically, the Patriots will reach the Super Bowl if they're not one of the five most injured teams in the NFL and they'll win it all if they're above average health-wise.
New England really needs to evaluate how it processes and prevents injuries because it's horrible for the team to rank at the bottom of the league on such a regular basis. That has to change. Head coach Bill Belichick says injuries are a standard part of the team's post-mortem process.
"We go back and look at the previous year," Belichick said. "Look at historically the information that we have, what the nature of the injuries were, where they happened, what the circumstances were, practice, game, whatever it is and try to find trends or try to find ways based on the testing of the athletes prior to their injuries, whether there was any type of indication that there might be a vulnerability in some particular body part or imbalance or whatever it happens to be."
Perhaps it would be beneficial to borrow ideas from old friends, colleagues, and admirers.
The Vikings, Dolphins, Falcons, and Eagles rank as the four healthiest teams over the past five seasons, but it's the Eagles that offer the smallest deviation of the group for injuries per year. That means that they're the healthiest team year-in and year-out. Former head coach Chip Kelly, now with the 49ers, was one of the main drivers for that period of time.
Kelly was known to monitor player's food intake, practice reps, sleep cycles, and everything in between in order to best manage a player's health. While plenty pf players have lashed out at the over-reach of the coaching staff, the Patriots players seem to follow the lead of quarterback Tom Brady, who has a great interest in injury prevention.
Another team that has done a great job managing injuries is the Falcons, led by former Patriots front officemen Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli, which means there are no excuses for New England to rank at the bottom of the league for injuries.
Time and time again, Brady has harped on how the focus on injury rehabilitation is the wrong approach, but instead players and teams should look at how to prevent these injuries from occurring in the first place. There are extremely simple ways to prevent serious injuries (read this article from Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier. It's fantastic) and the Patriots need to turn towards a healthier future.
If the Patriots can release offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo for the poor product of the offensive line, with regards to both the running game and pass protection, Belichick should really shine a spotlight on the injury prevention from the strength and conditioning team led by Harold Nash.
edit: The Patriots have informed Harold Nash that he will not be with the team in 2016.