NFL Nation: Walt Anderson
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
For the second consecutive year, based on ESPN Stats & Information's database, Triplette and his crew led the league in penalties called (accepted and declined). A late charge put his crew at 244 penalties in 15 games, a bit more than the 212 it called in 2012. The chart provides the full breakdown, and to me the most fascinating part is the range. Peter Morelli's crew called 93 fewer penalties over the same time period, demonstrating how different a game can flow based on the assigned crew.
Triplette is one of four referees assigned to this weekend's wild-card playoff games, according to the website FootballZebras.com. Triplette will work Sunday's game between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals, Walt Anderson has Saturday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, Bill Vinovich will work the New Orleans Saints-Philadelphia Eagles contest, and Ed Hochuli will be in Green Bay for 49ers-Packers, according to the website.
You can check the chart for how frequently each crew blew a whistle during the regular season. It's important to note that playoff crews are an All-Star group culled from the highest-graded officials from across the board, so a referee's playoff tendencies are less predictable.
Still, referees set the tone for any crew they head up. So below, I've provided some notes on how each of this weekend's referees called games during the regular season:
2013 range: High was Walt Coleman (52), low was Morelli (19)
2013 range: High was Carlton Cheffers (55), low was Morelli (23)
Offensive pass interference
Range: High was Clete Blakeman (12), low by many (2)
Range: Triplette was high (48), Mike Carey was low (19)
Hochuli: 34 (including NFL-high 10 for roughing passer)
For clarity's sake, a "coverage penalty" includes defensive holding, illegal contact and defensive pass interference. A "sportsmanlike conduct" penalty included unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer, personal fouls and unnecessary roughness.
I'll provide my usual disclaimer: Penalty totals don't equate with quality of officiating. They do, however, provide a guidebook over a sizable time period for how a future game might be officiated. NFL teams routinely study similar data. They know that they're likely to be watched more closely on late hits by Triplette than Vinovich. They also know that Vinovich is less likely to call holding and, if they ever get Blakeman's crew, to be aware of his frequent calls for offensive pass interference.
I'll attempt to provide similar reports for each round of the playoffs.
(You're out of luck, Terry McAulay.)
Anderson handled one Green Bay Packers game in 2010, their 45-17 victory the New York Giants in Week 16. There were a total of eight accepted penalties in the game, five against the Giants and three against the Packers.
While the referee sets the tone for any crew, it's important to note that the NFL uses "all-star" officials culled from multiple crews for the playoffs. To be eligible for the Super Bowl, all officials must have at least five years of NFL experience and previous playoff assignments. Of that group, the highest-rated officials under the league's evaluation system are chosen.
The chart ranks each of the NFL's 17 regular-season referees by the number of penalties -- accepted and declined -- they called during the regular season. For what it's worth, Anderson was a conservative penalty-caller on a relative scale, ranking No. 12 overall.
The second chart breaks down defensive pass-interference numbers by crew for the last three seasons.
The next chart breaks down offensive pass interference by crew for the 2010 season only.
Note that Coleman's crew has called only one such penalty this season, second-fewest in the league behind Seattle favorite Bill Leavy.
The next chart breaks down the offensive pass-interference calls by crew for the last three seasons.
The final chart shows three-year totals for roughing the passer, by crew.
Seattle fans might remember the controversial roughing penalty against Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock during the team's defeat at New Orleans in Week 11.
The pivotal play did not draw a fine, tacit admission that referee Mike Carey's crew erred on the call.
Coleman's crews have only four roughing calls over the last three seasons, fewest in the league among referees working continuously since 2008.
Note: All info from ESPN Stats & Information and includes declined penalties.
The Packers slugged to a historically sloppy 27-14 victory over Baltimore. How historic and how sloppy? According to ESPN Stats & Information, Monday night marked only the second time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that a team won with at least three turnovers and 175 penalty yards.
The only other time it’s happened was in 1988, when Houston defeated Oakland in a wild 38-35 game. I suppose that’s what happens when two of the NFL’s three most-penalized teams get together. And some of the nine pass interference penalties seemed questionable, at best, from referee Walt Anderson’s crew.
But regardless of the reasons and who is at fault, it’s clear the Packers overcame more mistakes than most NFL teams can usually handle.
One programming note: Black and Blue all over will post in an afternoon edition later Tuesday.
Mike Sando: I have personally tracked assessed penalties and replay challenges since Mike Holmgren complained about officiating in Super Bowl XL. I also went back through records to include data since 2001. ESPN Stats & Information also tracks this information. My replay information is more detailed because it counts booth challenges, but its referee information is superior because it counts declined penalties, not just accepted ones. Its information also breaks down penalty types by crew.
Based on my records, Ron Winter's crews have assessed more penalties per game since 2003 than those headed by any of the 16 other current referees. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Winter's crew is calling more total penalties per game -- accepted plus declined -- than any other crew in 2009.
Scott Green is working the 49ers-Packers game in Week 11. Ed Hochuli is working the Seahawks-Vikings game. I'll check on the Cardinals-Rams referee once I get to the Edward Jones Dome a little later.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Based on Jim Mora's general postgame comportment Sunday, the Seahawks' coach is probably fortunate no one asked what role officiating played in the game.
Referee Don Carey, who accounted for five of 19 replay reversals through Week 2, made his league-leading sixth reversal a memorable one when he returned possession to the Bears following Matt Forte's fumble at the Seattle 1-yard line. Linebacker David Hawthorne had recovered for the Seahawks, who held a 13-0 lead at the time.
"A decision will be reversed only when the referee has indisputable visual evidence available to him," the rule book states.
This one appeared inconclusive at best.
Mora's postgame rant against kicker Olindo Mare might have read differently had anyone pressed for his thoughts on Carey's reversal. I doubt he would have the ruling, uh, acceptable.
"If you’re a kicker in the National Football League you should make those kicks -- bottom line," Mora said of Mare. "End of story. Period. No excuses. No wind, doesn’t matter. You’ve gotta makes those kicks. Especially in a game like this, where you’re kicking and fighting and scratching your tail off and you miss those kicks, it’s not acceptable. Not acceptable. Absolutely not acceptable."
Carey suffered two reversals -- and Mike Singletary's ire -- while working the 49ers-Cardinals game in Week 1. He suffered three more reversals in Week 2. The NFL's 17 referees have suffered 26 replay reversals in 48 games this season. More than a third involved calls made by Carey, a rookie referee, and second-year ref Al Riveron.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Make no mistake, Friday night was all about new Cowboys Stadium. But the Cowboys did manage to dominate the Titans in a 30-10 victory. Here are some things that caught my eye:
- Quarterback Tony Romo was superb Friday, going 18-of-24 for 192 yards. And when he felt pressure, he made sure to secure the football with both hands. That's something that coaches have been harping on for years and it's a good sign that he's apparently listening. His best throw of the evening was a 19-yard pass to Jason Witten that set up the Cowboys' first touchdown. Romo bought himself some extra time and then dropped in a beautiful pass to Witten.
- Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff is on the verge of being a perennial Pro Bowl player. He's simply too quick for most centers and guards. He shot the gap between center and right guard to stop running back Chris Johnson at the line of scrimmage on the Titans' first series.
- Special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis was supposed to improve the coverage units in a dramatic way. But Titans running back Javon Ringer took a kick back 51 yards on his first opportunity. Gerald Sensabaugh didn't help things when he was flagged 15 yards for a late hit.
- The Cowboys held the ball for 22 minutes, 13 seconds in the first half. They dominated the Titans at the line of scrimmage. The Titans finally put a drive together late in the second quarter that was capped by Justin Gage's 17-yard touchdown catch.
- Rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins appeared to point a finger at safety Ken Hamlin on Gage's touchdown. Jenkins lined up on Gage but then tried to pass him off to Hamlin, who was late coming over. I still think it looked like Jenkins' fault.
- Former University of Houston basketball player turned tight end Rodney Hannah made an excellent catch on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Stephen McGee. Hannah's probably a practice squad candidate at best, but he has excellent size at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and his hands have really improved. If I were the Eagles, I'd be waiting to sign Hannah if he's released.
- Sam Hurd didn't come up with a catch he should have had on a back-shoulder throw, but he came back and made the catch of the night on a ball that was thrown behind him. Hurd reached back and hauled in the pass with one hand. He told me after the game that he still talks to his mentor Terrell Owens at least twice a week. "He taught me how to have patience," Hurd said of T.O. "Whether that was running routes or getting off press coverage." Hurd then emptied his locker to show me what books he's been reading. By the way, Hurd might be the best blocking receiver on the team.
- Cowboys reserve linebacker Bobby Carpenter made an excellent open-field tackle on Vince Young in the third quarter. I thought Young would beat him to the outside, but Carpenter grabbed his legs and made a really good tackle.
- Loved listening to crew chief Walt Anderson during Friday's game. At one point he made the following announcement into his mike: "False start on everyone but the center." And later he apologized to the crowd when he blew his whistle into a live mike.
- Running back Felix Jones is one of the most exciting players in the NFC East. What he did to Titans safety Tuff Harris on a 42-yard reception in the first half was embarrassing. Jones is a threat to go all the way every time he touches the ball.
- I saw a guy named Derreck Robinson force a poor throw late in the game. The defensive end out of Iowa probably won't make the team, but he was one of the few players to pressure the quarterback. Wade Phillips appears to be keeping it pretty basic at this point.
- Kudos to the entire offensive line -- except for the false start on Marc Colombo and the holding call on Flozell Adams. Jason Garrett showed a lot of confidence in the line when he chose to run the ball in the end zone with five seconds left in the first half.
- Looks like this offense could be pretty explosive. Pretty much everyone got involved -- even the guy from "4th and Long," Jesse Holley.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few tidbits on referee Walt Anderson and crew with about 30 remaining until the NFC Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium:
- Anderson and crew assessed 12.6 penalties per game during the regular season, third-most in the league.
- Coaches initiated 15 replay challenges against Anderson, resulting in three reversals. Only one referee, John Parry, had a lower reversal rate on such challenges.
- Anderson faced five booth-initiated challenges, resulting in three reversals. Those figures were unremarkable compared to league averages.
- Games Anderson officiated during the 2008 regular season averaged 41.21 total points, fifth-fewest out of 17 referees. The range was between 50.27 (Peter Morelli) and 39.25 (Bill Carollo).
- The Cardinals are 0-1 under coach Ken Whisenhunt when Anderson works their games, falling 25-10 against the Panthers in Week 6 of the 2007 season. Anderson assessed 20 penalties in that game, including nine against the Cardinals.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Replay officials have challenged rulings more frequently since the last time we pointed out wide disparities in replay rates during the final 2 minutes of halves.
Four referees hadn't faced a single booth-initiated challenge through Week 13. Those four referees have faced five such challenges in the last two weeks.
The challenge Walt Coleman faced in Baltimore was only the third raised against him this season in the final 2 minutes of a half, according to information I have tracked since 2003. Referees Gene Steratore, Ron Winter, Tony Corrente and Ed Hochuli have faced a combined 40 such challenges.
The NFL assigns the same replay officials to the same referees as part of an overall effort to foster continuity among crews.If replay officials applied the same standards each game, we might expect referees to face a similar number of booth-initiated challenges over time.
That was not the case in past seasons and it isn't the case in 2008. The inconsistent numbers raise the possibility of inconsistent standards for challenges.
The chart shows booth-initiated challenges by referee. NFL games featured 33 total challenges in Week 15, a season high even without the Monday night game. Total challenges have risen each week since Week 12 (from 19 to 25 to 27 to 33).
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Scott Green's crew assessed zero penalties against the Patriots. Al Riveron's crew assessed one penalty against the Browns.Those figures helped bring down the overall numbers for Week 8, despite the Rams' protests.
The chart breaks down crews by referee, penalties assessed per game, replay challenges and replay reversals.The number of replay challenges per game increased every season from 2003 to 2007, but the numbers are down to their lowest levels since 2004 this season. Fewer challenges mean fewer interruptions, generally a good thing in my view.
John Parry and Jerome Boger remained the only referees without a replay reversal this season. Peter Morelli joined Green with a league-high five reversals after initially disallowing a Chiefs touchdown pass against the Jets.
Available for download: full crew-by-crew breakdowns for penalties and replay.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL officiating crews have assessed between 9.3 and 16.2 penalties per game this season. The range was between 8.9 and 14.3 last season.
The chart breaks down crews by referee, penalties assessed per game, replay challenges and replay reversals.
John Parry and Jerome Boger remained the only referees without a replay reversal this season. Parry shot down Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who had been 4-0 in challenges this season.
Ron Winter, working the Colts-Packers game, became the fifth referee to suffer two reversals in a game this season. He reversed Indy touchdowns on consecutive plays, but the Colts scored on the third try.
Scott Green, working the Seahawks-Bucs game, suffered his league-high fifth reversal of the season when Mike Holmgren challenged Ike Hilliard's fumble.
Assessed penalties have climbed over the last three weeks. The crews of Walt Anderson (49ers-Giants), Boger (Jets-Raiders) and Winter (Colts-Packers) each assessed more than 20 penalties during Week 7, the first time this season three crews have reached that total.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL officiating crews have assessed between nine and 17.4 penalties per game this season. The range was between 8.9 and 14.3 last season.
The chart breaks down crews by referee, penalties assessed per game, replay challenges and replay reversals.NFC West teams have lamented several influential calls already this season. A few:
- In Week 1, Gene Steratore's crew flagged 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald for roughing the passer on a third-and-9 play. The disputed penalty helped the Cardinals sustain a third-quarter touchdown drive as they extended a 13-10 lead to 20-10.
- In Week 2, Jerome Boger's crew flagged Seahawks safety Deon Grant for pass interference, negating an interception in the end zone. Replays revealed the call as dubious. The 49ers scored a touchdown shortly thereafter.
- In Week 7, Peter Morelli's crew ruled Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo down, negating a lost fumble. The call appeared unwarranted.
Referees and their crews make the right calls hundreds of times each season. That buys them little relief when calls go wrong. Ed Hochuli knows this better than most.
I'm keeping a log of questionable calls involving NFC West teams this season. The three listed above stood out. If you have others, let me know. Thanks in advance.
Final Atlanta 24 Jacksonville 14 Final Detroit 23 Buffalo 0 Final Indianapolis 7 Cincinnati 35 Final New York 7 Philadelphia 37 Final St. Louis 13 Miami 14 Final Kansas City 14 Green Bay 34 Final Carolina 10 Pittsburgh 0 Final New England 13 New York 16 Final Washington 24 Tampa Bay 10 Final Baltimore 22 New Orleans 13 Final Chicago 13 Cleveland 33 Final San Francisco 40 Houston 13 Final Minnesota 19 Tennessee 3 Final Denver 27 Dallas 3 Final Arizona 9 San Diego 12 Final Seattle 31 Oakland 41