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How Much Do Penalties Matter -- This Year Anyway?

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Is there a relationship between penalty discipline and winning?   Here are the ten least penalized teams in the NFL this year:

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Team Penalties  Yards
Jaguars   67 522
Colts 71 531
Browns 74 633
Dolphins 75 595
Falcons 75 649
Chargers 76 553
Patriots 77 688
Chiefs 79 591
Steelers 80 729
Redskins 82 665

 

There seems to be some relationship between penalties and winning.  Five of the ten teams on this list are in the playoffs or in the running for a playoff spot.   You can also see the hands of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, as four members of that coaching tree -- Belichick himself, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Eric Mangini -- appear on this list.  (Anybody want to venture a guess why the list is so skewed towards the AFC?  Eight of the ten teams come from that conference.)

But check this out.  There are the ten most penalized teams this year:

Team Penalties Yards
Packers 114 1038
Raiders 112 890
Ravens 110 1057
Eagles 109 893
Bengals 107 819
Cowboys 104 812
Bills 103 815
Cardinals 101 810
Bears 95 801
Vikings 93 712

 

What's going on here? There are four guaranteed division winners here, two more teams guaranteed playoff berths and a seventh -- the Ravens -- which enters Sunday knowing it will advance with a win over the Raiders. 

The dirty teams are arguably performing better, or certainly no worse, than the saintly ones. 

Something strange is afoot at the NFL Circle K.