F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
NFL has an officiating problem
The NFL has a problem. Fans know it. Coaches know it. The league knows it.
The fans have completely lost confidence in the league’s game officials.
And why wouldn’t they? Seemingly every week there is another egregious mistake made in a game that costs a team a victory or a chance at a victory.
If not for two crucial errors in the Kansas City-San Diego game, it would be the Steelers, not the Chargers, playing the Bengals this weekend.
But the Chargers also were the victim of a call in Week 1 when the league admitted an officiating error gave Houston a first down when the Texans were lined up to kick a field goal. Houston went on to score a touchdown and beat the Chargers, 31-28.
So what goes around comes around.
Is that how we should view officiating errors, though?
NFL officials are part-time employees, albeit ones who are paid a lot of money – $173,000 this season.
Players are fined for their actions during games all the time, even ones that were accidental. Coaches also can be fined by the league.
But the NFL can’t be fined for mistakes made in games, regardless of whether it costs a team a win.
Their only punishment is having their season evaluation downgraded. Rank in the lower half of the league, and you don’t get to work any playoff games.
Not fined. Not fired. They just get to end their season early and come back next year to mess things up again.
The league only has 17 officiating crews, many of them very good. But it has 11 playoff games. That means you can be ranked in the bottom half of officials and still work a playoff game.
It’s no coincidence that it’s the same officials messing up calls every week. They’re notorious for it.
But because the officials have a union, those guys are untouchable regardless of how many mistakes are made.
The league is considering centralizing replay in New York to allow for more consistency in that part of the game.
Until it admits, however, it has some bad officials and does something about it, that’s all just window dressing.
With any luck, none of this year’s playoff games will be affected by a bad call.
And now, on to this weekend’s games.
The Packers are on the only home underdogs in this year’s first round and history tells us at least one road team will win this weekend.
Green Bay was a so-so 4-3-1 at home this season and the defense, which will be without Clay Matthews, is too shaky.
Take San Francisco, 31-27
The Saints were just 3-5 on the road this season, but the Eagles were only 4-4 at home.
Take the more experienced playoff team in this one.
Take New Orleans, 34-27
Midway through the season, this game would have been considered a no-brainer. But after a 9-0 start, the Chiefs went 2-5, including a 23-7 whipping at the hands of Indianapolis in Kansas City.
Take Indianapolis, 24-20
The Bengals are 8-0 at home this season, having scored 34 or more points in each of their past five games at Paul Brown Stadium.
Typically, San Diego in the Eastern Time Zone at 1 p.m. just isn’t very good.
Take Cincinnati, 31-20
Last week: 11-5 ATS; 14-2 Straight up
Overall: 108-129-7 ATS; 157-84-1 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.