Expect the referees to throw a lot of flags during Super Bowl LVII

Carl Cheffers

Carl Cheffers
Picture: AP

I don’t watch sports events for the players or the game. Watching amazing athletes achieve phenomenal feats that I would never have dreamed of in a billion years… no, not for me. In fact, I watch sports because of the officials. Being so close to the action despite having no athletic ability, yet having a serious impact on the outcome of every game…well that’s a powerful trip I could really get behind. You see, referees are the true heroes of every sports league’s story. I just wish they got more attention every game. I wish they never had to face the responsibility for incorrect calls that cost teams, fans and players their seasons. I’m not the only person who thinks so either.

A few years ago, an entire section of an NHL game between the New York Islanders and the Vancouver Canucks was filled with fans mimicking the most memorable people on the ice — judges. They went absolutely crazy with every call. I believe that all officials deserve this respect.

In case the sarcasm in the last two paragraphs didn’t jump off the page at you, I haven’t been too happy with NFL officiating lately. It seems like every year more and more officials go out of their way to stir up drama and ruin a team’s or a particular player’s day. Maybe I’m looking too deeply into it though. Also, before I get into why I’m not looking forward to officiating in Super Bowl LVII, I want to make it clear, this is not a call to disrespect the officials at any sporting event. While I believe there should be some sort of accountability at higher levels for cruel rulings, that is no reason to make a judge’s life hell. Alright? I’m glad we can agree on that. Now, without further ado, I can’t stand the guy running the Super Bowl officiating crew.

Carl Cheffers played a lot of penalties

Carl Cheffers has been an NFL official since 2000. In that time, he has established himself as one of the most passionate flag throwers in the league. Since 2010, Cheffers has been under just once league average of imposed penalty meters per game (2016). In 2021, games run by Cheffers increased penalty yards by more than 27 compared to league average. That was the highest mark in the NFL. But he didn’t give up in 2022. Cheffers repeated as the most punishing referee, though that number dropped from 27 yards above average to just 18. Over the past two years, Cheffers and his staff have called two more penalties per game than average.

While these permanent flags have not affected the outcome of games — Cheffers has only seen home teams win at a rate of 0.02 percent above the league average this year — the flags still make the game much less enjoyable for fans. There are absolutely no people on the planet who like to see the pace of the game stop. Whether it’s the basketball players who constantly foul their opponents and then pause for free throws, the numerous icings and calls for the backcourt in hockey, or back-to-back penalties in the NFL, slowing the game to a halt is bullshit, but I guess that’s to be expected for this upcoming Super Bowl.

It also appears that the trial has leaning drastically in favor of one specific team. In his last six games officiated – and nine of his last 10 — Cheffers played at least twice as many penalties on one team as on the other. It all started on the 11th. 6. 2022., during a game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks won that game in the final 31-21. They were penalized six times for 34 yards. The Cardinals were penalized 12 times for 77 yards.

Next week, Pittsburgh Steelers beat New Orleans saints 20-10 (display, other). The Steelers suffered only three penalties. Saints? Ten. This does not mean that a team facing multiple penalties is dead in the water. Of those nine instances in which a team went through multiple pennants, three of those teams ended up winning the game: The New England Patriots in Week 12, the Buffalo Bills in Week 16 and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. to be fair, the Bills and Chiefs played the Bears and Texans in those games. It doesn’t matter how many penalties each team racked up in those games, you’d expect the organizations with the top two picks in the upcoming draft to beat them.

Cheffers and the Chiefs

I do want to talk a little more about the Chiefs though. This season, Cheffers has refereed two Kansas City games games. The Chiefs were invited 11 and 10 penalties in those matches, respectively. All season long, the Chiefs have suffered 94 penalties. 21 of them came from Cheffers through just two games. The penalty meter is even worse. During the season, the Chiefs lost 923 yards on these penalties. 201 of those yards came from Cheffers. That’s 21.78 percent of their total penalty yards in just two games. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ opponents in those games had just nine penalties for 105 yards. The Chiefs’ opponents have lost 845 yards this year, meaning that only 12.43 percent of all of the Chiefs’ opponent’s penalty yards have come in those games. It’s still higher than where it should be proportionally (2/17 = 11.76 percent), but it’s much closer to where the Chiefs fall. Oh, and remember that Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Tampa Bay Piratewith that saw Patrick Mahomes get blown out 31-9? Well, the Chiefs had 11 penalties in that game. Bucs? Only four. Guess if Cheffers was on the officiating team for that game.

Cheffers and Eagles

Cheffers tried one Philadelphia The Eagles’ game this year — theirs Divisional round match with the New York Giants — but the Birds he was awarded only four penalties in that match. The Giants suffered eight.

If you’re a Chiefs fan, this is not good news. If you’re an Eagles fan, this is great news. If you’re an NFL fan with no team allegiance, that means we’re probably in for a boring championship game. By awarding so many penalties, games refereed by Cheffers tend to be very low scoring.

Cheffers judged the 12th playoff games since 2010. The Under scored in the 11th those games with the only exception coming in Tom Brady’s miraculous 28-3 comeback during Super Bowl LI. It wasn’t particularly close either. In those 12 playoff games that Cheffers led, he averaged nearly 13 points below.

It’s not all bad news for Kansas City, though. The Eagles are currently favored by 1.5 points, and it seems Throughout history, Cheffers has been very kind to outsiders. Since 2019, they are 42-24-2 against the differential in games refereed by Cheffers. All I’m saying is that if you have the opportunity to compare less to over penalty yards against the Chiefs…maybe think about it. I know I will.

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