Is there an NFL conspiracy punishing the Redskins, Cowboys, and New Orleans with penalties on the field?

As diehard fans know the Redskins and Cowboys were punished this offseason for frontloading contracts in the 2012 NFL uncapped season. The Redskins were fined about 36 million and the Cowboys 10 million. The Saints were only fined half a million for the scandal, but this is misleading due to certain players contracts such as Vilma’s being kept on the books due to possible reinstatement. Also the suspension of head coach Sean Payton is another glaring punishment. The Saints also lost two second round draft picks. There has been a whisper of conspiracy in the NFL so I decided to run some stats for these teams that have "fallen out of favor".

Since I am a Washington Redskin fan I am ecstatic that RG3 is doing well. It pained me to see the replacement refs let RG3 take a couple of hits that were unfair and not call a flag. Every NFL quarterback has to deal with that I suppose though. Especially during the Rams game this was a huge problem. I cannot speak for the Saints or the Cowboys but there are definitely flags that are not called on opposing teams that are blatant fouls against the Redskins (the infamous Josh Morgan call comes to mind, along with numerous other penalties)

If you look at pure stats as of week 7 you will find that the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins have the fourth and fifth total yards per game in offense respectively. New Orleans and Washington have the 32nd and 29th ranked defenses respectively. Dallas has the 5th best defense in the league and the 10th ranked offense.

Washington has a whopping 55 penalties called against its team. Only the Baltimore Ravens have more penalties called against them. If you watch the Washington games, you will realize that a significant percentage of these calls are completely unfair. The Cowboys have 52 penalties, trailing only the Ravens, Redskins, and Seahawks. New Orleans has 45. It is interesting to note the New Orleans and Redskins have about a 9 yard average penalty per call, while Dallas averages a measly 7.0 yards.

In penalties per game (bye weeks included in the factoring) Dallas ranks first, Washington ranks fourth, and New Orleans ranks sixth. This is especially curious because Dallas is taking an extremely high number of penalties but for a relatively low number of yards.

The Redskins have 497 penalty yards against them, the most in the league. New Orleans has 391. Dallas has 376. In penalty yards against them per game (adjusted for the bye weeks), the Redskins have 71 on average (2nd in the league). New Orleans has 65.17 (7th most in the league) and Dallas has 62.67 (9th most in the league). Curiously Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburg, and Green Bay also rank among the highest in penalty yards per game against themselves. However, Green Bay and Baltimore also receive lots of penalties, while Detroit and Pittsburg receive a very low amount. Chicago receives hardly any penalties or yards from opponents as well.

And when you look at the numbers for NFL team penalties per game the teams with the least number of penalties are the Atlanta Falcons, NY Giants, and Cincinnati Bengals respectively, all teams that played the Redskins. One might say that this is a curious coincidence, or evidence that tampering is happening due to the low sample size being tainted by these games. Saint Louis is ranked 23rd, but this makes sense with their dirty defense. It is of note that the Giants played the Cowboys as well.

However you still must also account for the penalties that were called in the Redskins favor. This accounts for 426 yards. This equates to 6.83 calls per game and 60.86 yards per game. This leads to the Redskins being 14th in the league in yards called against their opponents, right in the middle of the pack. However, one must accept that 214 of these yards were from the Saints game and the Bucs game.

Also of note is the fact that 32% of Redskin penalties take place in the 4th quarter, 30% in the third quarter, 17% in the second quarter, and 20% in the first quarter. These numbers are rounded and also include offsetting penalties, which is why you might get a different but very close %. It is curious that the majority of the penalties are in the 3rd and 4th quarters, but this might be the usual per NFL game although I am too lazy to calculate this for every team. However, if you look at the beneficiary penalties for the Redskins (penalties called against opposing teams), the numbers speak for themselves. 13% of penalties called against opposing teams occur in the 4th quarter, 27% occur in the 3rd quarter, 31% occur in the 2nd quarter, and 27% occur in the 1st quarter. This is a very fishy stat line, especially considering that it is essentially the exact opposite for the redskins.

Let’s look at the individual penalties called in the 4th quarter just to make sure. On opposing teams in the fourth quarter, there are 7 total foul calls (includes declined calls). There are three offensive false starts, two on Cincinnati and one on Tampa Bay. Then there is a delay of game on Cincinnati. Then there is an offensive holding on New Orleans. The last penalty is a personal foul on Cincinnati. These penalties total 37 yards, or 9% of the total penalty yards the Redskins receive.

For the Redskins in the 4th quarter, there are 19 fouls called against them (includes declined calls). There are four false starts, three offensive holdings, two personal fouls, two unsportsmanlike conduct, a horse collar tackle, a facemask, a defensive offside, a defensive holding, an illegal contact, and a defensive pass interference, an Illegal touch kick, and an ineligible downfield kick. These penalties total a whopping 170 yards for 34% of the total penalty yards the redskins are punished for.

If you look at the penalties against the Redskins, you will realize a massive amount of them were against them in the 4th quarters of the Bengals and Rams game. In the New York game, penalties were only called in the 1st and 3rd quarters against the Redskins, one of which turns a touchdown into a field goal, and a questionable D Hall penalty which the subsequent drive ends up netting a touchdown for the Giants. In the Atlanta game, the penalties are concentrated in the 2nd quarter when the redskins were about to be up 14-0 but instead have to punt and a subsequent drive lets the falcons tie the game at 7. After that the Falcons start winning when RG3 is injured and there are few penalties.

The Redskin’s offensive unit was responsible for 287 of these penalty yards. (This took a long time to calculate and I might have made a mistake or two but it is a good estimate.) They took 210 yards in penalties from their defensive unit. Therefore they took about 58% of their penalties on the offensive side of the ball. This also suggests tampering since offensive penalties are significantly more correlated with losses than defensive penalties, for obvious reasons.

8% of the Redskins penalties occurred on 4th down, 11% on 3rd, 32% on 2nd, and 42% on 1st. 3% were not listed with a down in my database =(. Of penalties committed by other teams against the Redskins, 14% were on 4th down, 25% were on 3rd down, 17% were on second down, 29% were on first down, and 13% were unlisted. Keep in mind I am rounding. This could be interpreted a lot of ways, and looking at each penalty by itself would be the only way to know for sure the importance of one fourth down punt meaningless penalty verse a first down penalty on a final drive.

Okay so now let’s take it on a game for game basis with the Redskins

Redskins 12 penalties 127 yards-107 Saints 12 penalties-107 yards Result: Redskins win

Vegas line: Saints by 8, wrong

Redskins 11 penalties -96 yards vs Rams 7 penalties-60 yards Result: Rams Win

Vegas line: Wash by 3.5, wrong

Redskins 6 penalties-60 yards vs Bengals 8 penalties -80 yards Result: Bengals Win

(30 yards penalized on final drive, 5 more than should have been from Kyle Shanahan penalty)

(After this game replacement Refs are no longer here.)

Vegas line: Wash by 3, wrong

Redskins 8 penalties-73 yards vs Bucs 10 penalties -107 yards Result: Redskins Win

Vegas line: Tampa Bay by 1.5, wrong

Redskins 4 penalties-20 yards vs Falcons 2 penalties -13 yards Result: Falcons Win

Vegas line: Atlanta by 3, right

Redskins 7 penalties -66 yards vs Vikings 5 penalties-29 yards Result: Redskins Win

Vegas line: Min by 1, wrong

Redskins 7 penalties -55 yards vs Giants 3 penalties -30 yards Results: Giants Win

Vegas line: NYC by 6.5, wrong

So the Vegas line was only right once- against the Atlanta Falcons. And the Redskins were penalized more in every game except the Buc’s and Bengal’s games. One could argue however that the Redskins penalties in the Bengals game came at a critical time on the last drive, and a penalty whose merit was entirely dubious considering the entire Bengals team was walking on the field at the same time Kyle Shanahan was. The end result was the Redskins were way out of field goal range when they had just been well inside it.

Personally I believe there was bias in the Bengals and Ram games in the 4th quarter. I also believe there was bias in the second and third quarters of the Giants game. The second quarter of the Falcons game is also questionable. The Vikings game also was rank with bad penalties against the Redskins. The Tampa Bay game was characterized by the return of the NFL regular refs trying to reinstate order, which a large number of penalties against both teams. The New Orleans game is interesting because it was New Orleans verse Washington, and a high number of penalties were called on both teams.

One might ask themselves how the NFL or Vegas could do this and get away with it. Just keep in mind all these players, refs, and coaches associated with the NFL are getting rich off it and many of the players have no viable career options compared to their NFL salary. What would these people have to gain from questioning the integrity of the game? After all, it is only a non-first down spot here, a penalty there, a questionable call that is not overturned on the challenge here (like RG3’s fumble in the Giants game). Most importantly it is all the calls that are not called that truly affect the game. It is also not glaringly obvious as to be openly challenged. The percentage of calls that swing a game is very low and it is hard to find such calls in the statistics. In fact it may be due to the individual bias of the Refs themselves and have nothing to do with any conspiracy at all.

One might conjure memories of the Patriots 2001 win after 9-11 after being outplayed by the Rams and starting the season 1-3. The Patriots were introduced as one team when traditionally the starters are always introduced as well. The Rams were introduced individually. ( New Orleans mystical Super Bowl win after Katrina in 2009 was tainted by blatant holding by the offensive line. Not once was New Orleans called for holding during the playoffs. There were also repeated late hits on Bret Favre and Kurt Warner that went uncalled.

One thing is for sure; don’t bet on the Saints, Cowboys or Redskins because the cards appear to be stacked against them this season. I also have come to believe Detroit has a similar disturbing trend of having high-powered offenses and high amounts of penalties against them. These teams with high powered offenses and they might be discriminated against by the NFL for past actions, dislike, or by Vegas for reasons relating to their high powered offenses which make point spreads too unpredictable.


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