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Opinion: Referee tendencies could lead to physical Bills vs. Chiefs game

“Human factor” can be shown on charts

In the 2020 AFC Championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, the Chiefs’ defensive backs played very physically against the banged-up receiver corps of the Bills—which already lacked a size presence to great effect. When the teams met again during the regular season in 2021, it was the Bills who showed physicality in coverage with the bet that the referees probably wouldn’t call penalties enough for it not to be a net positive for the defense.

Judging by the referee assignment for this week’s AFC divisional round game once again pitting purveyors of sweet barbeque against spicy buffalo zealots, we could be looking at another physical matchup.

The head referee for the game will be John Hussey, whose crew is known for a very “let them play” approach relative to his fellow officiating teams. A graph outlining this was completed by “footballzebras” using data from nflfastR:

As you can see, Hussey’s crew has a tendency to swallow their whistles a little more than their striped comrades, and given the way the last couple of games have played out between these two teams, it could end up mattering.