NFL's penalty problem and Wild news

Marc Elliott

PIKE LAKE – Today was Champion-ship Sunday in the NFL and I watched the better part of both games. At least I watched for as long as I could stand watching two tilts that were utterly dominated by miserable officiating.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the players and officials aren’t exactly on the same page in this league but there is plenty to chew on there from both sides. Today’s games were for a chance to go to the upcoming Super Bowl LVII, or SB 57 for those that don’t do roman numerals.
In the National Football Conference the Philadelphia Eagles were up against the San Francisco Forty Niners at Philly and in the American Football Conference the Kansas City Chiefs were playing the Cincinnati Bengals in KC.
The home teams were the odds-on favorites to win. My personal picks without wagering a dime were the Eagles and Bengals. Without a horse in the race I wasn’t really pulling for anyone one way or another.
That came crashing down quickly when I got a reminder of how loathsome Philly fans can be early in the game.
But putting the game action aside I quickly picked up on how little momentum or flow these games had to them. I also quickly determined that it was because of the impact the game officiating was holding over that. This is nothing new to me. And being a diehard hockey guy I can hardly squawk about officiating in any instance.

Nonetheless, these games were becoming harder to watch as they unfolded. And most of that had to do with the impact of the game call by the referees.
For the sake of data in the SF versus PHI game the Niners took 11 penalties for 81 yards. That was the same amount of rushing yards they had for the entire game. The Eagles by comparison were penalized only 4 times for 34 yards. Am I to believe the Eagles only committed 4 fouls for the entire game? That is unlikely.

In the KC versus CIN tilt the Bengals were penalized 9 times for 71 yards. The Chiefs received 4 for 55 yards. And once again the Bengal’s penalty and rushing yards were an exact match
In the NFC contest there were officially 115 plays run. If you combine the number of penalties called and add at least 5 plays under review and divide the plays run by that number (20) you have referee involvement once in less than every six plays.
On the AFC side there were 129 plays run. Combining the number of called penalties with about 7 plays under review (20) and then dividing the plays ran you have referee involvement in about every 6 1/2 plays. No wonder the games are hard to watch and rarely establish any flow to them.
Some fans point to the belief that due to the presence of sports betting the games are “fixed.” Others believe the games are scripted. Rigging the games to achieve a certain outcome favorable to sports books or casinos would be crazy if true.
What if that info leaked out to the fans? That would destroy a multi-billion dollar business pretty fast. Even if I suspect that the NFL isn’t the most intelligently run sports league on earth that is a road I can’t go down. I’ll readily admit though that I do wonder at times.
My biggest concern is whether the league understands how much this impacts its product. And at this very moment I don’t view it as the quality product it could be. Both of today’s tilts took around 3 hours and 20 minutes from start to finish for a mere 60 minutes of playing time.
For myself that isn’t a big deal. I’m retired and sports viewing and putzing around the house are two of my main activities. What about the fans that it is a big deal for? If I’m grinding my teeth sitting through every inefficient game played dominated by subpar officiating how must they feel?
I occasionally wonder whether the games are stretched out time-wise to allow for more TV advertising per game. I don’t know the exact answer to that it just seems that when I was a lot younger the games were better played and I don’t recall the refs having sway over each game as they seem to now.
It’s all food for thought and I’m going to dig into this a bit more. It won’t change the fact that both games today were poorly officiated and that these were two of the worst Championship games I’ve ever seen. BTW, Philly won 31-7 & KC did too 23-20.
THE MINNESOTA WILD began the calendar week finishing up a four-game eastern road trip. When they played the Tampa Bay Lightning they were already 1-2 on the roadie. This was a close game until there were about 5 1/2 minutes left when the Bolt’s Steven Stamkos scored to put them ahead. They would add an ENG for a 4-2 final. The road trip was a 1-3 disaster because later that night they would fall out of the playoff spot they were in when the Colorado Avalanche won and knocked the WILD back to ninth place and out of a playoff position.

And it isn’t that the team is playing some really poor hockey, they just aren’t playing as well as they could or up to their capabilities in my view. To gain some redemption before departing on their All-Star Game break they came home and beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a 3-2 score in OT and then beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in the SO on Hockey Day in Minnesota. The team has won six consecutive HDIM tilts and is 13-2-1 in the event overall. The Philly game was a return to the league’s “Old Time Hockey” and Slapshot roots. There were four spirited bouts featuring three within 16 seconds on the game clock. My unofficial scorecard had the WILD going 3-1 in those matches.

When the team returns to action on Feb. 6 at Arizona they will commence a month that just might be the toughest part of the season’s schedule. They will play 13 games and each of them will be against stiff competition. In their favor is that nine of them will be in St. Paul with the team seeing the road only four times. The month also features two sets of back-to-back games. No matter how you cut it those are hard.

Even if the league will be in the “dog days” of the season this will be a very important month for the club as they try to lock down a playoff spot and show the coaching staff who is ready to perform at the level needed to accomplish that. The March 3rd trade deadline is coming up rather quickly. Would GM Bill Guerin be inclined to make a deal with another club? With Matt Dumba on an expiring contract and the team wavering on him, I’d rather see the team move him and get something back.

If that happens who else might be on the block? One trade may not help this club get in or make them playoff ready if they do. Standby. PEACE