Buy or Sell: Which Penalties Will Increase or Decrease in 2022?

For 2022, I want to offer a forecast into five of the most major penalties called in the NFL and whether or not I believe they will be called more or less this season. If I believe a penalty will be called more, I will buy. And if I believe it will be called less, I will sell.

I get it. Why do we need penalties in the NFL? Everybody hates seeing the little yellow flag on the field. The truth remains that we need them. Not only are they there to help keep the players safe; they also help ensure a fair game between teams.

Defensive Pass Interference

Based on conversations around the NFL with coaches, officials are now changing the way the way they are judging defensive pass interference. Officials are now essentially judging that if a defensive back is in good position in coverage to make a play for the ball, based on their conversations with these coaches, then they will allow more hand-fighting. This means that contact that previously would have been a foul will now be allowed more often. For that reason, I think this penalty will be called less in the NFL moving forward into 2022. Verdict: Selling

Roughing the Passer

The NFL called the most roughing the passer penalties in league history last year. After taking a deep dive into these calls, the officiating department and rules committee found that many of the calls were based on incidental contact to the head or neck area. They noticed a lot of glancing or grazing blows to the quarterback’s helmet from pass rushers. They do not want officials to call that kind of contact moving forward. These blows have to be forceful or deliberate. Because of that, I believe roughing the passer will also be called less in 2022. Verdict: Selling

Offensive Holding

This is the most-called penalty in the NFL every season. The NFL is still figuring out their Goldilocks zone with offensive holding, but they are getting better at identifying restriction at the point of attack. Given that they have been getting better at this process, I don’t see a change coming in the number of offensive holding calls. Verdict: Neutral

Illegal Contact

Illegal contact penalties are now a point of emphasis for officials, and we saw it in Week 1 of the preseason. The official has to see the contact occur beyond five yards and then look for the quarterback. If he still has the ball in the pocket, it’s a foul. If the ball is gone, it’s not a foul. Officials are now being told to speed up that process in between seeing the contact and getting eyes on the quarterback. As soon as they see that contact happen, they are to immediately turn to the quarterback. For that, I believe it will be called more often this year. I don’t believe it will happen 15 times a week like it was this past week in the preseason, but they only called it 36 times all of last season. I expect an uptick in illegal contact calls in 2022. Verdict: Buying


I don’t expect this rule to change much. The NFL still wants this to be a point of emphasis. It’s not a case of the NFL not wanting players to celebrate. The NFL wants to eliminate as much of the derogatory or disrespectful actions done to opponents as possible. Players can still celebrate by themselves or with teammates. Illicit or inappropriate remarks and gestures, spiking the ball, standing over your opponent, those are the kinds of things the NFL wants out of the game. Last year this was called 61 times, the most since it became its own foul. That, combined with another year of teams, players, and officials understanding the standards, is why I think taunting will be called less this year. Verdict: Selling


How to Coach Players on Rule Changes and Avoiding Penalties

In this video, former NFL referee Dean Blandino leads former NFL coaches Dirk Koetter and Chuck Pagano in a roundtable discussion about coaching players to avoid penalties.

Preparing the Team

Pagano speaks on how important it is to emphasize the NFL’s illegal contact rule to rookies because it’s not something they dealt with in college. He mentions how it starts the second they arrive with the team and how it needs to be carried throughout the preseason. Pagano also mentions how important it is for officials to come to training camp and educate the players. This allowed the coaches to share videos with the players and get the input of the officials right away.

Pagano then mentions at every Friday practice he would prepare his team with information about the officials for their upcoming game. The information would include which penalties they called frequently and which ones they didn’t.

How Illegal Contact Affects the Passing Game

Koetter then touches on the impact this rule can have on offensive players and coaches. He mentions how although the rule favors the offensive side of the ball, most offensive coaches don’t like the rule. Koetter says there is a lot of “gray area” between defensive pass interference, defensive hold and illegal contact. He also touches on how the rule makes the life of officials more difficult.

Next, Blandino mentions the NFL competition committee wants to emphasize illegal contact this season because the league’s overall passing numbers dropped last season. Blandino says there is a correlation between illegal contact and the passing game because the passing game is predicated on timing.

The panel also speaks about the first week of the preseason.  15 illegal contact penalties were called in the preseason’s first week, compared to 36 total illegal contact penalties last season. Blandino says fans shouldn’t expect 15 a week because officials are told to throw more flags in the preseason, and then reign it back if they have to.

Scroll to the Top