This Week in the NFL: Time to replace the replacements

"Remind me what we do with this again?" - Time for the replacement officials to go before the outcome of a game is affected by them

It has been a rough seven days in the NFL, for several reasons. Richard O'Hagan looks back at the past week, and forward to the weekend

"This past weekend was something of a disaster. One official was removed from the New Orleans game after his Facebook page revealed him to be a Saints fan. Another apparently told Eagles running back LeSean McCoy that he should be in his (the official's) Fantasy League team."

Two stories have dominated the NFL this week. The first is the ongoing saga of the replacement referees. The regular NFL officials are 'locked out', unable to officiate games because of a dispute over final pensions with the NFL itself. Equally locked out are the next tier of officials, those who run the college games on a Saturday night, because they are controlled and trained by the same officials union. This means that the games this season have been run by third level officials, all of whom should be keen to grab their chance at the big time.

We warned you a couple of weeks ago that this was likely to cause problems and that has indeed to come to pass. The replacements were adequate during the opening week, but this past weekend was something of a disaster. One official was removed from the New Orleans game after his Facebook page revealed him to be a Saints fan. Another apparently told Eagles running back LeSean McCoy that he should be in his (the official's) Fantasy League team.

And that is before you get to the on-field errors, the games being extended by an average of 15 minutes because of the number of times decisions had to be reviewed by the video official, and simple acts of indecision. It was a shambles and, while it is impossible to say that the result of a game has been adversely affected, that time will surely come if the NFL doesn't do something to resolve the deadlock in the dispute with the regular officials.

Tonight's officiating crew are at Carolina for the Panthers against the reigning champions, the New York Giants. It should be something of a shoot-out.

Eli Manning put up over 500 passing yards at the weekend, whilst Carolina's Cam Newton is unlikely to be shy of looking downfield against a Giants defence which is missing several starters due to injury. The champions have spluttered this season, losing their first game and having to come from behind on Sunday. The Panthers looked assured in beating New Orleans (sans fanboy official!). At [2.08] for the win, I'm taking Carolina.

On the whole, though, it is better to avoid the closer matches with these replacements in place. There's too much risk of that one error turning a game. Back in New Orleans, one team will drop to 0-3 for the season as the Saints host the equally-winless Kansas City Chiefs.

The story of the close season was the suspension of two New Orleans coaches, one former coach, their general manager, one player and three former players for various lengths of time for offering payments to injure opposing players. It has hit them harder than they ever expected and they've been well beaten in their two games to date.

The market makes New Orleans strong favourites for this game, but it is clear that the bans have been more destabilising than anyone expected and it seems more likely that the Chiefs will be the ones to break their duck. Back them at odds of [4.3].

Finally, it would be wrong to end this week without a nod to the second big story of the week, the death of Steve Sabol, the head of NFL Films and a true visionary among sports broadcasters. Without some of his innovations it wouldn't be possible to offer the variety of markets we can do on many games, so integral has his work become to the way we view the sport. Few people can make history in a sport without ever setting foot on the field and Sabol will be sadly missed.

Recommended Bet
Back Kansas City to beat New Orleans at odds of [4.3]

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