Putting New York Giants penalties into perspective

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants protests a penalty resulting from a touchdown celebration by Odell Beckham #13 to referee Jeff Triplette during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 8, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 08: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants protests a penalty resulting from a touchdown celebration by Odell Beckham #13 to referee Jeff Triplette during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 8, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) /

Penalties usually appear to be a big part of any NFL contest, but contrary to popular belief, the New York Giants have not been noteworthy either way.

What that means is that Big Blue has neither been hampered, nor has it been a beneficiary of penalty calls. According to the website, NFLPenalties.com, the New York Giants rank squarely in the middle of the NFL pack statistically, at least when it comes to penalties.

By total count, the G-Men have been had 97 penalties accepted against them. That ranks them 15th in the NFL, right behind the Los Angeles Chargers with 99 penalties. By simple math, that computes to almost seven accepted flags per game.

In today’s NFL, seven accepted flags per game would seem to be average. To break it down, a game where the New York Giants have six penalties or less, seems to be a clean game. Anything above seven accepted penalties, then the team may be putting itself in harm’s way.

Once again, however, the devil remains in the details. A pass interference call on a sure touchdown may actually “save” the game for the offending team.

Certainly there are many variations to understanding the impact that penalties play in the course of an NFL game, but fans, coaches and players often like to blame the zebras for impacting the competitive balance of a game.

Back in October, after losing to the Carolina Panthers, head coach Pat Shurmur had to tamp down the constant carping and whining over officiating.

Per NJ Advance Media:

"“Those are excuses. When you talk about officiating, that’s excuse-making and that’s not what we do.”"

More from GMEN HQ

At least statistically, too many penalties does not seem to be a major contributing issue for a team with a 5-9 record. Thus taking everything into context, debating penalties puts focus on a small percentage of plays. Even if a team gathers ten penalties per contest, a game could have upwards of 140 – 150 plays run, so all the chatter is about less than 10 percent of the action.

Drawing a correlation

Now, just to be clear, this review isn’t an exact science because the website doesn’t take into account place on the field or time of the game when penalties occur. An offensive holding in the first quarter has the same impact as the same call with two minutes left in the game.

The balance of calls for the New York Giants seems uncanny. By unit, the offense has been called for 38 penalties, and they’ve been called for 41 defensive penalties. They also had 18 special teams penalties called on them this season. The high-water mark for offensive penalties in the league is 60, and we’ll disclose that team later. That same team has 52 defensive penalties which also leads the NFL.

Contrary to what football analyst seem to always state, there doesn’t seem to be a solid correlation between team’s record and number of penalties. In other word, the NFL bottom feeders aren’t all in the top ten in penalties.

In fact, the top ten consists of five potential playoff teams, and five teams who likely won’t make the playoffs.

One area where this basic study could come into play is on special teams, however. NFL Penalty Tracker tells us that the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the NFL in special teams penalties with 24. Meanwhile, the Steelers have committed 96 penalties overall, meaning that 25 percent of the penalties they commit are on special teams.


Conversely, the Minnesota Vikings have been flagged on special teams a league-low seven times. Probably, not coincidentally, they are penalized the second fewest times in the league with 78 total penalties.

Wrapping up

Not surprisingly, the Tennessee Titans are the least penalized team in the NFL with 71 total calls. That comes out to about five calls a game. Last week against the New York Giants, they had four penalties accepted against them.

By all appearances, the Titans seems to minimize their unnecessary mistakes, thus alleviating penalties.

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Giants had ten penalty calls against the Titans, which continued a trend where Big Blue has been in double-digits in penalty calls for three of the past four games. The only outlier was the 40-16 win over the Washington Redskins, when the G-Men had only two penalty calls.

So does winning football cause less penalties? Or are “good” teams less inclined to commit infractions?

That’s a major conundrum because the NFL team with the most penalties called is the Kansas City Chiefs. And  it’s not even close, as KC outpaces the runner-up Buffalo Bills by 15 penalties. That’s three good games, or one monster bad game.

It’s hard to determine if the New York Giants penalty calls are indeed trending in the wrong direction, but it is worth head coach Pat Shurmur taking a deeper dive to see what’s going on.

No conclusion can be drawn based on these raw numbers, except for the fact that when analysts take these very raw numbers and draw game conclusions, they simply have no idea. Excessive penalties don’t necessarily equate to undisciplined play.

Sure if a team commits three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, or has a plethora of illegal procedure calls, then that can be considered to be undisciplined. Conversely, if we were to study Kansas City’s offense, we may find it’s complexity leads to more offensive penalties. In other word, it’s a high risk, high reward endeavor.

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So utilize these stats as information, but not the sole determinant of who wins or loses a football game, or who the “good” teams are, versus who the “bad” teams are. Analysts always needs something to talk about, so why not pick on the officials?