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Penalty Recap: A look at the Buffalo Bills through 12 games

Sure it hasn’t been perfect. But has it been unusual?

Indianapolis Colts v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

Blah blah blah...record. Blah blah blah...playoff odds. Josh Allen? More like Schmosh Schmallen! Ken Dorsey vs. Joe Brady? Sean McDermott and the temperature of his seat? None of that matters when we still have the most intriguing and entertaining aspect of Buffalo Bills football to talk about! That’s right, I know we all really tune in to see the officiating and penalties. Good thing we have you covered! Since we’re just coming off the bye week, let’s check in on the Bills’ penalty performance this season.


Penalty Counts

I remember at the beginning of the season remarking that the Buffalo Bills were really doing well at avoiding penalties. Ha ha ha. Well folks, they’ve regressed to the mean. The Bills mean. Which in the McDermott era has been higher than the NFL mean when it comes to penalties.

So what are the means? The per-game NFL average this season is currently 6.08 penalties per team assessed and 7.3 flags thrown (true count). The Bills sit at 7.0 assessed and 8.08 thrown. Respectively those numbers rate fourth- and fifth- (tied) most in the league. Using my rule of four, that means Buffalo is pretty bad with flags.

Historically, Buffalo’s average has fluctuated under head coach Sean McDermott, which is typical for most teams. Their fluctuation ranges from a touch above average to bad. This year’s current results are the worst we’ve seen in a few years, if you’re wondering.

Penalty Yards

As the counts go, so typically do the yards. With true yards factored in (includes yards negated by penalty), the Bills have conceded the length of the football field or more in three separate contests. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, they didn’t even need the negated yards.

To help put the chart in further perspective, the NFL average is 50.62 yards per game. Buffalo has stayed below that line a fair few times, but when they spike they spike pretty hard. For the true-yards portion of the graph, there’s no league-wide data to be had if you’re wondering.

Penalty Harm

As Harm is a proprietary stat and I don’t have the time to calculate this for all teams for every game, this is the only chart presented as a “Buffalo vs. opponent” graphic. This can be a bit more rule of thumb as a result, but the cutoff between a good day and bad day for Harm is 10.0 in a game.

Without the ability to validate this league wide, it’s hard to tell how good that rule of thumb is, but it’s my stat so deal with it. From the graphic, we see a similar result. There are plenty of decent games for Buffalo — but when they spike, they spike hard.

Most Wanted

Usually I’d do a top ten for this but I thought it would be fun to include everyone. The table is sorted by penalty count as I wanted to highlight running back Latavius Murray. He’s all the way down at the bottom with only one flag on him this year. Murray’s high Harm rating is due to negating a touchdown. For Harm newbies, negating a touchdown starts off at 7.0 Harm.

For the rest of the list, take your time, but most of this is pretty normal. Offensive linemen and corners are always the highest rates of flags. A defensive lineman like Jordan Phillips or Ed Oliver being toward the top of the list isn’t unusual either.

The N/A coming in second isn’t crazy either, as that covers a fairly broad array of flags.