The conference championship round of the NFL playoffs had a lot of fans directing their ire toward the officiating. Overall, it wasn't the best display. The third-down redo granted to the Kansas City Chiefs was puzzling to all, and some would argue officials missed an offensive hold on Patrick Mahomes' final scramble.
All of that is in the rear-view mirror, but as we turn our attention to the Super Bowl, there will likely be some extra attention placed on Carl Cheffers, who has been named the Super Bowl referee for the third time in seven years. Cheffers won't have his entire usual crew, as the league goes with an "all-star" officiating crew for the Super Bowl, but there are certainly some trends and history worth monitoring based on Cheffers' history. How do we turn that into actionable information?
Unders have been a good bet under Cheffers
Carl Cheffers has officiated 12 playoff games since 2010. In those 12 games, the under has hit in eleven of them. The only playoff game that Cheffers officiated that went over the total was Super Bowl LI, where the New England Patriots erased a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.
Cheffers officiated the playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this season. The Bengals won that game 27-10, with the final score landing way under the closing total of 49 points. Overall, the under in playoff games officiated by Cheffers has hit by an average of nearly 13 points.
One main reason for the under consistently cashing in games officiated by Cheffers might be the barrage of penalties he calls. Cheffers and his crew have led the NFL in penalties called for each of the last two seasons.
This past season, Cheffers called an average of 12.6 penalties per game which resulted in 109.9 yards in penalties. The NFL average this past season was 11.1 penalties for 91.4 yards. Last season, Cheffers called 13.9 penalties per game for 124.1 yards. The league average was 11.7 penalties for 100.9 yards.
Chiefs fans aren't a fan of Cheffers
In every sport, fans of every team think there's one certain referee that has a personal vendetta against their team. For Chiefs fans, that official is Carl Cheffers. Of course, Cheffers will be officiating their team in the Super Bowl in a little over a week, and their fans aren't fond of the idea.
We're in the fifth year of the Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid era in Kansas City. During that time, Kansas City has averaged just 6.3 penalties per game resulting in 57 yards. Cheffers has officiated ten Chiefs games during that time. In those games, the Chiefs are penalized an average of 8.3 times for 76 yards. This past season, Kansas City was one of the more disciplined teams in the league, averaging just 4.9 penalties for 48.5 yards. However, in the two games officiated by Cheffers, Kansas City was penalized an average of 7.5 times for 87 yards.
This won't be the first time that Cheffers is presiding over a Super Bowl featuring the Chiefs. He was the head official for Kansas City's loss to Tampa Bay two seasons ago. In that game, Kansas City was penalized 11 times for 120 yards while Tampa Bay had just four penalties for 39 yards. It's one of the more lopsided penalty counts in Super Bowl history. The eight penalties and 95 yards enforced against the Chiefs in the first half were both NFL records for a Super Bowl. Those penalties resulted in six first downs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via penalty, which was also an NFL record.
Kansas City's history with Cheffers goes back quite a while. In a 2016 divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh, Cheffers called a holding penalty on a potential game-tying 2-point conversion attempt. After the game, current Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce had pointed remarks at Cheffers, "The ref shouldn't be able to wear a zebra jersey ever again. He shouldn't be able to wear it at Foot Locker."
It might not all be bad news for Kansas City. Since 2019, underdogs are 42-24-2 against the spread in games officiated by Cheffers. Kansas City is currently a 1.5-point underdog in the Super Bowl.