Ref Trends Bettors Need to Know for NFL Conference Championship Games

Ref Trends Bettors Need to Know for NFL Conference Championship Games article feature image

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NFL referee Bill Vinovich during the Houston Texans

  • Bill Vinovich and Clete Blakeman will lead the crews officiating the NFL conference championship games.
  • Using Bet Labs, we analyze against-the-spread and over/under trends for games officiated by these referees.

There are only four teams remaining in the NFL Playoffs. On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints will host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game (3:05 p.m. ET, FOX), followed by the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).

Officiating the conference championships will be referees Bill Vinovich and Clete Blakeman. Zebras are expected to be impartial, but they do have tendencies that bettors can exploit. Using the Bet Labs database, we highlight an interesting trend for each ref officiating this weekend.

In addition, we look at why each fanbase may not be excited to see these flag-wielders oversee their games.

As always, it’s unwise to place a wager based solely on the past results of referees. This is just one more piece of information to make you a more informed gambler.

Note: Records include regular season and playoff games since 2003.

Bill Vinovich Betting Trends (NFC Championship)

  • Favorites: 39-44-2 against the spread (ATS) (47.0%, -6.51 units)
  • Home Teams: 38-44-2 ATS (46.3%, -7.95 units)
  • Overs: 37-47-1 (44.0%, -11.63 units)
  • Saints: 4-3 ATS
  • Rams: 0-5 ATS

In games that Bill Vinovich has overseen, the under is 47-37-1 (56%) including 29-18-1 (62%) in the past three seasons. According to Pro Football Reference, there have been 22.4% fewer penalty yards per game relative to the average official when Vinovich has been in charge the past three seasons.

Fewer penalty yards likely leads to fewer first downs and thus less scoring.

Why Rams fans don’t want to see Vinovich:

In Rams games with Vinovich, the team is 0-5 straight up (SU) and 0-5 ATS. A majority of spread tickets are on Jared Goff and Co. in the NFC Championship game.

Rams fans are so mad that Vinovich will be wearing a striped shirt on Sunday that they started a petition to have him removed from the game.

Why Saints fans don’t want to see Vinovich:

In all Saints games that Vinovich has been a part of going back to 2002, New Orleans is 10-5 SU. If I had to guess, Saints fans are only nervous that Vinovich will be in the Superdome out of fear these trends reverse.

Clete Blakeman Betting Trends (AFC Championship)

  • Favorites: 63-73-5 ATS (46.3%, -12.38 units)
  • Home Teams: 63-71-5 ATS (47.0%, -10.32 units)
  • Overs: 67-72-2 (48.2%, -7.77 units)
  • Chiefs: 4-2-2 ATS
  • Patriots: 2-6 ATS

Nobody believes in the Patriots, at least that is what Tom Brady and Julian Edelman would have you think. The oddsmakers have listed New England as an underdog in the AFC title game, but Blakeman has always been kind to the pooches. When Blakeman has the whistle, dogs have gone 73-63-5 ATS, including 6-1 ATS in the playoffs.

Why Chiefs fans don’t want to see Blakeman:

In last year’s AFC Championship game, the Patriots rallied from down 20-10 in the fourth quarter to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Guess who the first person was to congratulate Tom Brady after the victory?

That’s right, Clete himself.

Why Patriots fans don’t want to see Blakeman:

Clearly, the Pats get all the breaks (see video above). Of course, Blakeman was also one of two officials who measured the PSI in the footballs at halftime of the 2014-15 AFC Championship game that sparked Deflategate.

So maybe Blakeman and Brady aren’t besties.