Replacement Officials Will Determine NFL Games in 2012

August 19, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive back Antoine Bethea (41) stiff arms Pittsburgh Steelers running back Will Johnson (46) as Bethea runs back an interception against the Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

A good friend of mine resides in Denver, a life-long Broncos fan and a season ticket holder.

Whenever the Steelers travel to Denver to play the Broncos, I am assured of hearing two things from him. 1. The amount of money he just made selling extra tickets to that game to Steelers fans. 2. Our inevitable bet.

He sold three tickets to Steelers fans for a total of $1,455 for the Week 1 season-opener. He asked me about making a bet.

"No chance," I said.

"Yeah, I know you're afraid of Manning," he responded.

"Nope. I'm afraid of the officials. You should be, too."

And so should you.

Having watched two Steelers preseason games, two Vikings preseason games, and bits and pieces of scores of other games, there's not one of those in which I didn't see a call or a no-call on behalf of the officials taking the place of the locked out regular NFL crews in which I didn't shake my head in amazement.

Last night's Chargers at Vikings game may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Hopefully, that same straw breaks the NFL's back as well, because it's to the point where I'm even wondering if the replacement officials aren't just plants from the officials' union who are tanking it at the union's direction to help their bargaining position with the league.

Dramatic? Yes. Reasonable? If you're watching these games, I think you may agree with me.

We're not talking about ticky-tackiness of pass interference calls, or the intensity of focus on holds along the line. We're talking about wrong positions, incorrect interpretations of rules and seemingly having taken a play or two off.

The Steelers were attempting what was to be the game-winning field goal. The kick was partially blocked, largely due to the fact the Colts put a defender over the snapper, which is a 5-yard penalty. No flag.

Last night, Chargers DB DeAndre Presley made a nice play, intercepting a Chrisian Ponder pass intended for Percy Harvin. He bobbled the ball a little bit but clearly, the ball never came close to hitting the SportTurf at Mall of America Field. It was ruled an incompletion.

It was overturned upon review. So was another play in the game. How often are two replay challenges overturned?

Let's put this into context. The poorest officiated game I've ever seen was the Steelers' 35-3 dismantling of the Oakland Raiders in 2010. I wrote at the time the issue isn't so much with the penalties, the lack of obvious calls let the game get out of control, and you had DE Richard Seymour lay a cheap shot on QB Ben Roethlisberger because the officials failed to take control of the game (and because Seymour's a punk).

There probably would have been an all-out brawl if the crew in the Vikings/Chargers game was in charge.

I don't bet on games anyway. I'm perfectly secure in my lack of knowledge to not feel the need to lose money because of it. But I'm baffled at the thought of anyone betting on these games with it being obvious those officiating it are so far below standard, a black eye on the game isn't a possibility, it's a certainty.

It may be the preseason for the players, and they may go hard for a few plays and take the night off. This is live for the officials. The actual refs are graded in these games just as they are in the regular season.

Imagine if Hrapmann's kick was blocked, and the Steelers lost Week 1 at Denver because of that no-call. It may not be that exact situation, but we will see something like it in Week 1.

That, I will bet on.


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