The good news on the NFL-watchability front is that the penalty-flag rate is decreasing as the season wears on. The bad news remains that NFL referees still are throwing their flags with historically high frequency.*
Incorporating last week’s numbers shows that we’re settling into that 9.2 range. With seven weeks of games remaining, there’s plenty of time for the rate to continue to fall, so it remains possible that 2017 will end up closer to historical norms. Without examining week-to-week data from past seasons, I don’t have a sense of whether that’s likely to occur (e.g., if it’s common for officials to call fewer penalties as seasons develop).
* The NFL Penalty Tracker has data going back to the 2009 season, but I’m pretty confident that we are witnessing the all-time high-water mark.
Stability of a kind (NFL week nine penalty update)
People are noticing (NFL 2017 week eight penalty update)
Is this still a thing? (NFL 2017 week seven penalty update)
Alberto’s favorite things (NFL 2017 week three penalty update)
NFL week two penalty update (2017)
The NFL returns with zebras on parade