NFL officials made the worst mistake possible last season, swallowing their whistles and costing the Saints a Super Bowl appearance with seemingly everyone in the world watching. There was no excuse for a pass interference penalty going uncalled when safety Nickell Robey-Coleman plowed through receiver Tommylee Lewis in January’s NFC Championship game.
Robey-Coleman didn’t even try to defend it. He just celebrated the non-call while New Orleans mourned and the football-watching nation shook its head. The NFL publicly apologized.
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The league opted for a quick-fix to ensure something like that would never happen again, allowing head coaches to challenge pass interference. It obviously regrets that decision and has no plans to allow teams to benefit from the rule change. Perhaps its only interest is to prevent another playoff travesty because replay officials have treated regular-season challenges the way Ivy League schools handle C-average students, rejecting one after another.
Of the 33 challenges issued between Week 4 and Bill O’Brien’s flag-tossing late in Sunday’s first quarter in Baltimore after seeing his star wideout DeAndre Hopkins get tackled in the end zone, 32 were denied. To the dismay of anyone without a rooting interest in the Ravens, senior VP of officiating Alberto Riveron and the league’s replay office in New York upheld the decision to not punish Baltimore corner Marlon Humphrey despite visual proof he got there early.
The NFL is now ignoring the “clear and obvious evidence” that was supposed to guarantee that these calls end up made correctly. Your guess is as good as mine as to why. Arrogance? Willful ignorance?
Whatever the case, Houston should have gotten the ball at the 1-yard line in a scoreless game late in the opening quarter. It likely would have punched in the first score and would’ve have changed the complexion of what ultimately became a 41-7 loss. Afterward, Hopkins called for “someone new in New York deciding calls.” I second that notion.
Officiating has become a weekly drain on the game. Holding can be called on every play and in the first few weeks of the season, often is. We have no clarity on what a catch is, what pass interference is and what a late hit on a quarterback should be. It’s all subjective, but bad decisions are being made with increasing regularity.
Replay makes these crews look bad, so the replay office is intentionally being dishonest to protect the fraternity. If that’s not the case, it sure feels like it. Amusingly, the league did rescind a horrible offensive pass interference call in Jets-Redskins against Demariyus Thomas that would’ve negated a first down and overturned a non-call on Richard Sherman in Cardinals-49ers, making it seem like someone noticed how often they’ve been swiping left on these objections.
In the same game, a pass interference call was whistled on linebacker Joe Walker despite the fact that fullback Kyle Juszczyk tried to go through him from behind to prevent an interception. Supposedly, Walker hadn’t located the ball. The incompetence has been incredible.
As bettors, we already have to deal with bad beats and backdoor covers on plays like the one that resulted in that San Francisco’s final touchdown. It would be nice if we could depend on the people being paid to uphold the spirit of the rules to stop getting in the way. It would be awesome if the system designed to fix their errors wasn’t pompously thumbing its nose at the process.
All we want is consistency from officials. Over the past few years, they’ve seemingly regressed. It doesn’t matter that they may get fined going forward. None of that money will go to those wronged by their mistakes. Chalk it up as part of the price of gambling if you want to, but you shouldn’t have to.
Worse yet, these players putting their bodies on the line shouldn’t feel so hindered by an element of the game that isn’t getting any better. Stuff your sorries in a sack and fix it, NFL, because we all still want to watch and bet on your product if you find a way to stop ruining it.
For all you frustrated souls out there, here are six Week 12 winners (unless the zebras find a way to interfere):
Colts at Texans -4.5: Indy QB Jacoby Brissett moved around well enough to help take down the Jaguars, but I don’t like the idea of him working on a short week as he comes back from an MCL injury. Houston is looking to rebound from a brutal outing against Baltimore and hopes to see WR Will Fuller return from a hamstring injury to give Deshaun Watson another weapon to work with. TEXANS
Raiders -2.5 at Jets: Jon Gruden takes his team across the country after three consecutive home wins, so this spot screams New York, especially with a trip to Kansas City for a game that will go a long way in deciding the AFC West on deck. So long as Sam Darnold avoids silly turnovers, the Jets will win their third straight. JETS
Broncos at Bills -4: After squandering a huge lead in Minnesota, Denver is tasked with going back on the road to try and solve a defense that’s going to make life difficult for inexperienced starting QB Brandon Allen. Buffalo starter Josh Allen has been overshadowed by Lamar Jackson but is similarly getting the job done with his arm and his legs. BILLS
Jaguars at Titans -3: Nick Foles’ return last week didn’t go as planned, while Ryan Tannehill is a perfect 3-0 at home since replacing Marcus Mariota as the starter. He’ll have improved chemistry with his receiving corps coming off a bye week that should allow TE Delanie Walker to return from an ankle injury. TITANS
Cowboys at Patriots -6.5: New England’s defense is the driving force for this season’s group and will be tasked with slowing down Dak Prescott and a Dallas attack that has averaged over 33 points per game over their last four contests. The Patriots haven’t given up more than 14 points at Foxboro this season and will have a determined Tom Brady looking to bounce back from a mediocre showing in Philadelphia. PATRIOTS
Ravens -3 at Rams: Monday night’s matchup will showcase Jackson at the height of his powers, but L.A. will have Aaron Donald applying pressure and benefits from Baltimore making its longest road trip. The expectation is that WR Brandin Cooks will clear concussion protocol and the hope is that Robert Woods will be back after missing Sunday night’s win over the Bears due to a personal matter. If Jared Goff’s playmakers are back, taking the points is a great value play. RAMS
Last week: 4-2