In a league like the NFL, every single game matters, with pivotal moments in each contest that help determine the victor between two professional football teams. There are some key things to look at when it comes to success in the NFL, things like turnover ratio, third down avoidance on offense, third down efficiency defensively and, most importantly, avoiding self-inflicted wounds.
One of the biggest self-inflicted areas that often hurt teams is the rate in which they’re penalized, which is a great predictor for which teams will win more often than not. Let’s take last season for example, out of the 16 teams that had the most penalties last season, only six of them made the playoffs (with the Buccaneers making the playoffs despite a losing record).
Out of the 10 teams that missed the playoffs, nine of them had losing records, as the Steelers (who were 18th in penalties) were the lone team that finished with a winning record in that group.
Clearly, how much a team is penalized has an impact on team performance but, just like anything else in life, there are exceptions. Take the Rams for example, last season L.A. had the 2nd-fewest penalties in the entire league and still finished 5-12, so it’s definitely not a foolproof way to look at things.
However, despite having a season where they were penalized less than everyone except one other team, the Rams are among the league leaders in an interesting category in the past five seasons.
That category is in unsportsmanlike conduct infringements.
According to research conducted by Gambling.com, the Rams are ranked fourth in the entire NFL in terms of total unsportsmanlike conduct offenses, as the entire list can be seen below courtesy of NFL insider Benjamin Allbright:
According to Gambling [dot com]— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) June 27, 2023
The Denver Broncos have picked up the most fines for unsportsmanlike conduct in the NFL over the last five years.
The Cleveland Browns have been fined the most money, however. Largely due to the Myles Garrett - Mason Rudolph situation. pic.twitter.com/EEVQyhMVly
Obviously, this is not a list that any team wants to be near the top of, especially because it’s much more of an objective ruling that can be avoided. One thing that I noticed off the jump is that despite nearing the top in total infringements, there are still four teams with less infringements that had to pay more in total fines for their incidents, indicating that the severity of each infringement for the Rams is a lot less than others.
Another thing that caught my attention is the fact that the Rams most hated rival, the San Francisco 49ers, have not had a single unsportsmanlike conduct infringement in the past five seasons. Now, I hate the 49ers as much as anyone in Rams nation, but I have to admit that is an extremely impressive stat for a team that has been among the best in the league in recent years.
As said earlier, most of these unsportsmanlike penalties have to do with overall team discipline and the ability to keep cool in tense situations, which can only benefit the team when conducted in the correct manner. To be frank, this research was something that I’ve never really thought to look into which, in turn, made it very interesting to see where each team ranks on the list and seeing if it correlates with team success.