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 4
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.
Scott Novak’s Impact on Patriots at Cowboys
The Patriots play the Cowboys for the third time in four seasons on Sunday.
Let’s assess the strengths and weaknesses of both teams from a penalty perspective and how the officiating of Scott Novak potentially impacts this game.
- Despite improvement last season, the penalty issues that plagued the Cowboys in 2021 have resurfaced early into the 2023 season. Dallas is averaging 8.00 penalties per game in 2023, ranking them fifth overall in per-game average.
- Novak called 53.5% of his overall penalties on the home team in 2022. That has increased to 56% on the home team in Novak’s three games officiated this season.
- The Cowboys are ranked third overall in pre-snap penalties per game this season. The primary reasons for this are defensive offsides and false start infractions.
- Pre-snap penalties were a major issue for the Patriots in 2022. They were disorganized with Matt Patricia running the offense. While not perfect in 2023, there has been improvement in this area with Bill O’Brian running the offense. New England should continue to improve as the season progresses.
- The Patriots have struggled with offensive holding penalties this season, in part due to injuries on their line. The positive this week is Novak has not consistently called this penalty. Only once in four seasons has he ranked in the top half of the league in per-game average. This season, only three of the 17 referees have called fewer offensive holding penalties than Novak.
- Novak ranks third overall for false start penalties per game through three weeks of the NFL season. The Cowboys have struggled in this area more than the Patriots early in the 2023 season.
- Novak has ranked in the top three calling delay of game penalties in three of his four seasons, including the 2022 season.
The Bottom Line:
- Home teams with Novak were 7-9 on the moneyline and a league-worst 4-12 ATS (25%) in 2022. That has continued into this season with home teams 0-3 on the moneyline and 0-2-1 ATS.
- Home teams in Novak’s career are 25-40-1 on the moneyline and just 21-42-3 ATS (34%), the worst home team ATS record of any official since 2019, Novak’s first season as a head referee.
- Novak was 11-5 Under in 2022 with his games combining for an NFL-low 38.5 points. Novak is 2-1 Under this season, with the games averaging 42.5 points.
- Novak officiated the Cowboys versus Patriots in Week 12 of the 2019 season. That was a 13-9 win for the home team Patriots, who were a 5.5-point favorite.
This is one of the more intriguing games on the Week 4 slate. The Patriots have faced two of the top five teams in the NFL to start the season. The Cowboys have not faced anywhere near the level of competition in their contests.
The numbers we have outlined with Novak clearly point to a lower scoring game and the home team getting no favors whatsoever.
Add in the fact that AT&T Stadium holds no significant home-field advantage regardless of who the referee or opponent is, the only way we can look here is to take the underdog.
Getting a touchdown in what should be a 23-20 type contest makes the New England Patriots +7 points the play in this game.
Shawn Hochuli’s Impact on Bucs at Saints
The Buccaneers play their Divisional game opener for the 2023 season at the Saints on Sunday.
Let’s assess the strengths and weaknesses of both teams from a penalty perspective and how the officiating of Shawn Hochuli will potentially impact this game.
- The Saints and Buccaneers are in a small group of teams averaging the second-highest offensive holding penalties per game average early in the 2023 season.
- Hochuli has consistently ranked in the upper tier of referees calling offensive holding penalties in his career. That has continued in 2023, with Hochuli ranked second overall in offensive holding, averaging over three per game.
- The impressive Saints defense has been one of the talking points to start the season. From a penalty perspective, the New Orleans defensive line has been excellent. They have been penalized just once through three games. More importantly, they are creating havoc on opposing offenses via offensive holding penalties. The Saints defense is currently the co-leader in forcing offensive holding infractions on the opposing offense. This may be the biggest factor in their favor heading into this contest.
- Through three games, Hochuli is calling 68% of his overall penalties on two positional groups: the offensive and defensive lines.
- Defensive holding was an issue for the Saints in 2022 and continues in 2023. They’re ranked number one with the Cowboys in this category. The positive for the Saints is the Buccaneers have yet to generate a defensive holding call on opposing defenses this season.
- Hochuli leads the NFL in defensive holding penalties through three games of the 2023 season.
- Hochuli ranks second overall for roughing the passer penalties this season.
- Hochuli officiated this match-up in Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season. It was one of the most contentious games of the year. The game had 17 penalties for 161 yards. There were three unnecessary roughness and two disqualification penalties that day.
The Bottom Line:
- Hochuli is 46-35-2 Under (56%) in his career, including a 2-1 Under record in 2023.
- In Divisional games, Hochuli is 21-11-4 Under (66%) in his career.
- Home teams went a career-best 12-5 on the moneyline and 8-7-2 ATS with Hochuli in 2022.
The record in Hochuli officiated contests most definitely points to the under being the play from a total perspective. His emphasis on offensive holding penalties will stall a number of drives in this game.
It’s the Saints early season dominance in the trenches that benefits from this assignment. They’re forcing offensive holding infractions on opponents at a high rate, and Hochuli will call it more than most referees.
That focus on penalties in the trenches, combined with the Saints’ impressive early season numbers in this area, point to an advantage for the home team on Sunday.
In a game that could get chippy, the edge lies with the home team in this contest. The Buccaneers won this game last season in New Orleans, but Tom Brady isn’t their quarterback this week.
The Saints defense continues its early season dominance, and New Orleans -3 points is the play in the game.