It seems that any time the Packers win, people on social media will immediately claim it was because the NFL and referees love the Packers and want to help them win by giving them all the calls. I wanted to dive in to see if this was true. I looked at NFL penalty data going all the way back to 1992 (the Packers resurgence) and looked at it from multiple ways. This analysis is based purely on (accepted) penalties and not other questionable calls like fumbles (Jerry Rice fumbled) or completions (Dez dropped it) or touchdowns (Russ threw an interception). I am more or less looking into whether or not there is a hint of favoritism in the Packers victories.
Before I get started it should be noted that teams with good players and that are well coached, should have fewer penalties than teams with bad players and coaches, so just because a successful team has fewer penalties, doesn’t mean it is the penalties that are helping them win.
Correlation of Penalties and Wins
When I looked at the number of penalties for each team of each game since the 1992 season, I found that there was a moderate positive correlation (0.5793) between the team with fewer penalties winning.
The Packers won the actual game 314 times during this stretch while winning the penalty battle (meaning that they had fewer accepted penalties than their opponent) 247 times. In all but three seasons (2010, 2013, 2022), the Packers won more games than the penalty battle. There were four seasons where they won six more games than penalty battles.
|Season||Packers Penalized Less||Packers Penalized More||Packers Wins||Packers Losses||Difference|
Of course, just because they won the penalty battle doesn’t mean they won the game. These numbers below show their wins and losses in games where there were an even amount of penalties called, more penalties called on the Packers, and fewer penalties called on the Packers. Even in games where more penalties are called on them, they have a winning record.
Same Amount of Penalties (60% Winning Percentage)
- Tie Game: 0
- Packers Won: 38
- Packers Lost: 25
More Packers Penalties (54% Winning Percentage)
- Tie Game: 1
- Packers Won: 115
- Packers Lost: 98
Fewer Packers Penalties (70% Winning Percentage)
- Tie Game: 1
- Packers Won: 184
- Packers Lost: 79
The Panthers have the best penalty ratio against the Packers having been flagged just 93 times compared to 117 for the Packers. The Rams have the worst with 126 and 93 respectively. There are 10 teams that have been penalized less than the Packers and 20 teams that have been penalized more (the Texans have been penalized the exact amount).
When we look within the division, there may be an ounce of truth that the Packers have been getting more calls, although it is also to remember the important note from above. When compared with the other teams in the division, only the Lions have been called for fewer penalties (411-401). The Packers have a serious penalty advantage against the Bears (333-366) and the Vikings (355-428).
|Opponent||Packers Penalties||Opponent Penalties||Packers Penalty Pct|
John Hussey and his crew are the most hostile towards the Packers, calling just over 55% of all penalties on them. Five of the 17 referees have called more penalties on the Packers than their opponents. Land Clark has called the fewest although the sample size is very small. In looking at the amount of games officiated, it appears that Brad Allen is the most friendly towards the Packers.
|Referee||Packers Penalties||Opponent Penalties||Packers Penalty Pct|
Do the Packers get all the calls? No. Do referees love the Packers? No, they call them for penalties at about the same amount as their opponents. Do the Packers often win the penalty battle? Yes.
The findings above are pretty consistent that the Packers get between 45% and 55% of all calls and this is the same no matter the location of the game, the opponent, or referee. It appears that they have been a good football team for the better part of 30 years and that being a better team also means getting called for slightly fewer penalties.