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Referee Carl Cheffers is likely to get Super Bowl nod

Football Zebras has learned that a clear front-runner has emerged for the referee of Super Bowl LI.



Football Zebras analysis

After narrowing the field down from four candidates to two, Football Zebras has learned that a clear front-runner has emerged for the referee of Super Bowl LI.

[Update 1/18: Football Zebras has confirmed that all the officials listed below are  assigned to the Super Bowl.]

Carl Cheffers, according to multiple sources with knowledge of how the officials’ grades stand this season, is  the most likely candidate to head the all-star crew of officials for the final game of the season on Feb. 5 in Houston. The fact that Cheffers has not had a previous Super Bowl assignment furthers this likelihood, as the league  has shown preference to first-time officials that are in the top-graded tier.

Most of the crew that is working the Steelers-Chiefs game is believed to be headed to the Super Bowl, with two coming from the other AFC Divisional Playoff game. Typically, the referee-umpire pair and both  sideline tandems that are considered for the Super Bowl are placed in the the same divisional game, although there are usually no more than three such officials in the same game. The officials in the Kansas City game were originally in the early afternoon slot on Sunday, but due to the possibility of icy roads that morning, the game is now the bookend of the divisional weekend.

The Super Bowl assignments have not been finalized and will be distributed to the officials early next week. This gives the league office the ability to make silent changes if an official has a glaring error or is injured in the divisional game. Unofficially, the Super Bowl crew is believed to be as follows, shown with the number of Wild Card and Divisional Playoffs and Conference Championship games worked in the last five seasons:

         Yrs 2016 crew Div. Playoff 2011-2015 Prev. Super Bowl
R 51 Carl Cheffers 17    PIT-KC 1 DIV, 2 WC   
U 64 Dan Ferrell 14 Corrente PIT-KC 2 CC, 1 DIV   
HL 79 Kent Payne 13 Cheffers HOU-NE   4 CC, 1 DIV XLV
LJ 45 Jeff Seeman 15 Parry PIT-KC 1 CC,  2 DIV, 2 WC XLIV
FJ 67 Doug Rosenbaum 16 Morelli PIT-KC 1 CC, 3 WC   XLV
SJ 109 Dyrol Prioleau 10 Triplette HOU-NE   1 CC   
BJ 30 Todd Prukop 8 Corrente PIT-KC 2 DIV, 2 WC   

Again, this is subject to change, but Football Zebras has high confidence in the selections above based on knowledgeable sources and our internal analysis.

With that, there is still time to sound off on who you think will be the referee for Super Bowl LI in our poll below.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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