We tend to only focus on NFL referees after a controversial decision or bad no-call. Yet each head NFL referee and his respective crew interprets the game differently.
Gaining insight into the way a game will be officiated can have immense value in the betting market.
A referee who calls more penalties for defensive holding and roughing the passer has a far different impact on game flow than a ref who focuses more on offensive holding and false starts.
Referee style one week may hide a team’s weakness (defensive backs), but a different official who leans heavily on calling pass interference will compound that weakness the next week.
Same team. Different outcomes.
Throughout this 2023 NFL season, we’ll help to identify important trends and tendencies by different NFL referees to help you gain an edge when placing a bet.
NFL Referee Assignments for Week 13
|Seahawks at Cowboys||Clete Blakeman|
|Falcons at Jets||Ron Torbert|
|Cardinals at Patriots||Land Clark|
|Colts at Titans||Craig Wrolstad|
|Lions at Saints||Clay Martin|
|Chargers at Patriots||Bill Vinovich|
|Broncos at Texans||Shawn Smith|
|Dolphins at Commanders||Tra Blake|
|Panthers at Buccaneers||Brad Rogers|
|Browns at Rams||John Hussey|
|49ers at Eagles||Alex Kemp|
|Chiefs at Packers||Brad Allen|
|Bengals at Jaguars||Scott Novak|
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We will update this article every week of the 2023 NFL season, highlighting at least three games where referee and penalty trends may have an impact on the betting market.
Smart to bookmark it and check back regularly each week.
Land Clark’s Impact on Cardinals at Steelers
The Cardinals head east on Sunday to face the likely playoff-bound Steelers.
Let’s assess the strengths and weaknesses of both teams from a penalty perspective and how the officiating of Land Clark will potentially impact this game.
- The Cardinals are a top-10 penalized team through 12 weeks of the NFL season. The Steelers are one of the 10 least penalized teams
- Land Clark is calling just 40% of overall penalties on the home team
- The Cardinals offense is responsible for an above-average 59% of the team’s overall penalties, compared to just 41% for the Steelers offense
- The Cardinals rank sixth overall for offensive holding penalties per game
- Land Clark is co-ranked second overall in calling offensive holding penalties per game
- The Steelers defense is a top-five unit at generating offensive holding penalties on opponents this season when playing at home
- Conversely, the Steelers offense has been extremely disciplined, ranking 30th in offensive holding penalties per game. The avoidance of penalties like that has contributed to Pittsburgh being in games late, despite limited offensive production
- The Cardinals lead the NFL for ineligible man downfield penalties
- Land Clark is co-ranked second overall for ineligible man downfield penalties
- Land Clark ranks second in the NFL for unnecessary roughness penalties
- The Cardinals have committed twice the amount of unnecessary roughness penalties as the Steelers through 12 weeks of the season
The Bottom Line:
- Land Clark is 32-24-1 (56%) under the total in his career. It must be noted, Clark is on a 5-0 over run in his last five games
- Land Clark has never been a home field friendly referee, posting a 23-33-1 ATS (42%) record.
The home team angle with Clark officiating does raise some concern in this situation.
What overrides that angle is the specific penalty issues that have plagued the Cardinals this season and Land Clark’s emphasis on these infractions
The Steelers defense at home will be able to pin its ears back versus a subpar and mistake-prone Arizona offensive line, especially on long yardage downs created from penalties. That in turn increases the chances of turnovers.
Offensively, the Steelers moved the ball effectively last week. A red zone turnover after a dropped pass by Diontae Johnson that would have resulted in a TD played a part in Pittsburgh having just 16 points.
The point is, they looked serviceable on offense and have one of the worst defensive units in the NFL coming to town this week.
If ever the Steelers want a get-right spot to put forth an above-average offensive output, this is it.
It hasn’t happened yet in the 2023 season, but we’re predicting the Steelers to reach the 27-point mark on Sunday.
Combined with the penalty issues for the Cardinals versus the Steelers defense, it will result in a 27-20 type victory for the home team, making the Steelers -5.5 points the play in this game.
Shawn Smith’s Impact on Broncos at Texans
The Texans host the Broncos in Week 13 in what is a de facto Wild Card playoff game in early December.
Let’s assess the strengths and weaknesses of both teams from a penalty perspective and how the officiating of Shawn Smith will potentially impact this game.
- The Texans are co-ranked No. 1 for defensive pass interference penalties
- Shawn Smith ranks second in the NFL for defensive pass interference penalties per game
- The Broncos offense ranks third overall in benefitting from penalty yards on passing plays. Denver is solid across the board in generating defensive holding and illegal contact penalties on opposing defenses. The category of defensive pass interference penalties is where the Broncos offense has had the most success in 2023.
- Courtland Sutton is the Broncos No. 1 target in these situations. Through 12 weeks of the season, only the Jaguars’ Calvin Ridley has been more effective at drawing defensive pass interference penalties on opposing defensive players
- Shawn Smith is calling 51% of his overall penalties on the home team this season
- Shawn Smith leads the NFL in unnecessary roughness penalties. The Broncos and Texans have committed the same amount of infractions in this category. Discipline has to be a priority for the Broncos going forward as in recent weeks it feels like their defense has been singled out for discipline-related penalties
The Bottom Line:
- Home teams are 1-10 on the moneyline and 2-9 ATS with Shawn Smith in 2023
- Sean Payton coached teams are 3-0 on the moneyline and 3-0 ATS with Shawn Smith. These games date back to Payton’s time as the New Orleans Saints head coach. All three games were on the road. The most recent was a Saints victory at Washington in Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season with Jameis Winston at quarterback for New Orleans
This is an identical situation for the Texans as their Week 12 game against the Jaguars. A game that will significantly impact their playoff chances.
We went against the Texans last week as small underdogs at home. This is a different situation as Houston faces Denver as home favorites of more than a field goal.
From a penalty perspective, the two teams share a lot of similarities.
The one standout area that favors the Broncos is defensive pass interference. This infraction played a key role in the Texans’ loss to the Jaguars last week. It could be a similar story this week.
The Broncos offense has been effective at drawing these penalties, and the Texans defense struggles in this area. Shawn Smith’s emphasis on this potentially benefits the Broncos and compounds an area of weakness for the home team.
It’s incumbent on the Broncos offense to take advantage of the situation presented to them this week.
This is the marquee game in the early window on Sunday. As we have detailed, home teams have struggled mightily with Shawn Smith officiating this season.
That said, maybe the Texans can get the outright win. Even with that being the case, this match-up has the makings of a 24-23 type contest either way.
That makes the Broncos +3.5 points the play in this game.