Few NFL bettors work Referee Assignments into their handicaps, but knowing specific Crews and their Trends and tendencies can definitely help when picking your weekly games and can also help eliminate duds.
Paying attention to the head coaches trends, and spending the couple of hours it would take weekly to pass judgment of each NFL game and its’ specific Crew could cut into other research and other gambling endeavors. But for the serious Total player, knowing what Crew is working a weekly game and their tendencies is probably a pretty darn good idea.
Quite often, the amount of data, information and trends surrounding a football game can be overwhelming, forcing both the professional sports gambler and the serious recreational player alike to ask this question: “Is it worth my precious Time and Money to dive into this particular Trend/Angle/Reality?” One such niche some bettors either like to concentrate on or use as a part of their Betting Swiss Army Knife is Referee Assignments. Last month, the NFL released its Roster of Game Officials, which included 10 first-year Officials and one new Referee (John Hussey) in the 122-name group. For NFL bettors, focusing on specific Refereeing Crews (and their weekly game assignments) is the theory, with some Refereeing Crews showing certain Trends toward a Home Bias or to calling more or less Penalties than the league average over their years of officiating in the NFL—something of particular interest to Totals bettors. The 10 NFL officials who are in their first year and one new Side Judge (Jonah Monroe) have all been assigned to Crews and will be refereeing in OTA sessions later this month.
Where Do I Find This Information and How Do I Read It?
The website ProFootballReference has career statistics in all positions of officiating for current NFL Referees and some Trends and slight biases can be revealed (or perceived) by looking at the numbers, especially with those guys that have longer tenures in the league. Let’s look at an example from the website, using somewhat controversial Referee Jeff Triplett and his Crew to try to see what the numbers show over his time in the league in comparison to league averages. As you can see, Triplette has called more Penalties in his career on Visiting teams (1,686) than Home teams (1,537), meaning he has called Penalties on Visiting teams 52.31% of the time, a slight advantage to the hosts. And, Home teams have won outright 61% of the time when 16-year Referee Triplette and his Crew are out there, compared to a league average of 57.7%, another slight advantage to the Home teams, although probably the most important thing to remember when utilizing this information is that it’s based on NFL teams winning on a Straight Up (SU) basis and not Against The Point Spread (ATS). And this is one reason why this particular niche of knowing Referee Crews’ Assignments is probably easier to use as a tool for Totals bettors, as looking at scoring averages in games can be seen as is without having to plug in the point spread and do the work to see if the Home or Road or favorite or Underdog side covered. As you can see, over his career Triplette Crews have called an average of 13.10 Penalties Per Game, slightly more than the 12.52 league average over that very large sample size (16 seasons). So, the thought that Army veteran and Wake Forest product Triplette is good for the Home team and good for Overs could be accepted. And why are Penalties good for Overs? Think about it. Penalties are often free yards for the Offense, moving the football closer toward the goal line with no Time ticking off. And penalties stop the clock, allowing for calm play calls and players to get valuable oxygen back in their lungs (allows them to catch their breaths) and get some needed rest between plays.
* Image provided by ProFootballReference
The NFL’s Referees (Years Experience, College)
Brad Allen (2, Pembroke State)
Walt Anderson (20, Texas)
Clete Blakeman (8, Nebraska)
Jerome Boger (12, Morehouse)
Carl Cheffers (16, Cal-Irvine)
Walt Coleman (27, Arkansas)
Tony Corrente (21, Cal-State-Fullerton)
Ed Hochuli (26, UTEP)
John Hussey (14, Idaho State)
Terry McAuley (18, LSU)
Pete Morelli (19, St. Mary’s)
John Parry (16, Purdue)
Gene Steratore (13, Kent State)
Ron Torbert (6, Michigan State)
Jeff Triplette (20, Wake Forest)
Bill Vinovich (10, San Diego)
Some NFL Refereeing Crew Trends
Carl Cheffers: In Crews headed by Carl Cheffers last season, 7 of the first 9 games saw the Road team cover ATS and the games go Over, making Road/Over parlays looking like the thing to do when this crew was assigned to an NFL game. But as happens, this mega-Trend quickly reverted to a statistical mean with the last 7 games seeing that (Road/Over) only happen one more time in week 11 with 4 of the L5 games Cheffers refereed going Under with one Push. But still, with 8 Road/Over combinations in 16 Regular Season games, keeping an eye on Cheffers and both the Road teams covering and games going Over would still probably be a good idea.
Jeff Triplette: As we looked at, Triplette officiated games leans to the Home teams who have won outright 61% of the time when he’s been referee. And Triplette Crews have called an average of 13.10 Penalties Per Game, more than the 12.52 league average and a good thing theoretically for the Over.
John Parry: Are John Parry Crews good for Home Team? The statistics just don’t bear that out as Home teams have a 58.6% Win Percentage in his career in all positions while the NFL average over that time is 57.5%.
Ron Torbert: Crews of Torbert’s generally trend to the Home teams and low-scoring games.
Clete Blakeman: Clete Blakeman is perceived as an Under Referee despite his short tenure as an NFL Referee due to his Crews tendency to call a lower number than average of penalties per game. Blakeman’s Crews have called the third-least number of Penalties of all the crews and have resulted in the fourth-lowest number of points. Under bettors should seek out Blakeman games while Over bettors need to be aware when his Crew is working a game on Sundays.
Pete Morelli: Crews of this 11-year veteran Morelli have been way below average in calling penalties, thus many Unders in those games. If Cheffers is perceived as an Over Referee, then Morelli is definitely perceived as an Under one and worth watching.
Conclusions, Where to Find Referee Assignments and Is There Really Home Bias?
So, is it really worth the Time to bother looking at the Referee Assignments when they come out each week? That would depend on each individual bettor’s priorities. A professional bettor who likes betting on Totals would be wise to know of these assignments, while the small-time player or tourist betting with his or her heart will care little about who the individual game Referee Crews are. And exactly where can some of this crucial information be found? The website footballzebras.com releases all of the weekly NFL Referee Assignments which come out on Thursday afternoons. And, a complete list of all of the current NFL Officials can be found here at NFL.com.
Also, a couple of other things also need to be remembered. First, all of these Referees’ Crews and their career numbers are always likely to Revert back to a statistical mean, but if you think you see bettable Trends or Bias by a specific Crew, by all means highlight the games these guys are working. Second, it really seems all stats reveal that there are (a little bit) more penalties called on Road teams, so that 3 points they say NFL Odds makers build into the line for Home teams is truly justified, not only from the specific site or the consistent fervor and help from the crowd, but also from the Referees tendencies to give the benefit of the doubt (or not calling real Penalties) more often to the Home teams. And whether it’s the hotel they sleep in, a byproduct of all the noise and emotion and the moment, maybe Fear, or just a natural human thing, we see this Home Officiating Bias while betting the NBA, MLB, NHL and Collegiate Sports also. And this Home Bias even crops up in the Martial Arts and Boxing with judges occasionally.
Third, remember these Trends are probably best used in handicapping Totals, although with more effort, records can be kept on whether Home or Road teams (or Favorites or Underdogs) cover ATS when certain Crews are employed. And fourth, it’s always important to remember that the NFL is a very fluid thing, and that even though numbers always look the same, the game itself is ever changing. What does that mean? It means that Rule Changes can impact scoring, like last season when Referees were asked to clamp down on Defensive Holding and Illegal Contact, thus stopping play more, tacking more yards on for the Offense and letting players get oxygen. The result? More scoring, and something Oddsmakers and sports bettors had to work into their own individual gameplans. And, the advent of Instant Replay has also helped bring more stoppages of action, giving Offensive Coordinators more Time to draw up those plays to beat the Defenses instead of going with a hurried play from scrimmage. So, the technology has both made the game a bit more fair and a little more high-scoring over the long term. In short, Referee Assignments are probably a tool (piece of information) best used by the serious Totals gambler making bets of three digits ($100) and up per game and maybe as knowledge to even prevent one from betting on a specific game (because of a suspect Crew or one showing tendencies against what the bettor is looking for) although the recreational bettor could also profit, or be steered away, by knowing some of these NFL Referee Trends and that the Assignments always come out Thursdays. Every little bit helps these days.
NFL Referee Crew Trends to Remember: Pete Morelli is considered an Under Referee as his Crews have been consistently under the NFL average calling Penalties for 11 seasons while Crews of Carl Cheffers trend to higher-scoring games (9-6-1 Over last season).