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Our playoff predictions: Hochuli, Torbert, and Vinovich rank high

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Our annual tradition is to predict which referees are assigned to the postseason and the Pro Bowl. As we find every year, there tends to be a razor-thin line at the playoff cut, so an omission on this list does not necessarily mean we thought the referee was not worthy of a playoff assignment. We simply ran out of room.

You can see how we did in previous years (2016, 2015,  2014,  2013, and  2012), and feel free to make your own predictions in the comments section below.

Ben Austro

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Tough, tough decisions this season to make. This is more an exercise of inclusion than exclusion in my approach.

In the wild card round, I have Walt Coleman, Tony Corrente, John Hussey, and Pete Morelli. Any one of these would not be a surprise for the divisional round, in my opinion. Hussey is no longer the new white hat on the block and has shown some measurable improvement every year. The others are veterans with long postseason résumés, and have shown this season to be effective game managers.

In the divisional round, I think we will see Clete Blakeman, who continues to be a steady hand. Terry McAulay has been in more title games (conference championships and Super Bowls) that any other active official, and I have him right on the borderline between rounds 2 and 3. Craig Wrolstad has shown in four seasons that he was meant to be an NFL referee, and will continue his streak of postseason assignments.

For the conference championships, I have Bill Vinovich returning to the game for a third consecutive season; the year prior to that streak he worked the Super Bowl. The newcomer to the upper-tier games is Ron Torbert, who has been assigned to 5 postseason games, one in every year he was eligible for the playoffs.

Typically, I tend to “grade” Ed Hochuli on a very small curve, because his history and extensive playoff expertise tends to influence my decision. I don’t see any reason why Hochuli doesn’t get the big game in Minnesota, so I feel confident he’s earned this year. (This also means I have him working a divisional playoff under the typical assignment procedure.)

It’s not Hawaii, but I see Gene Steratore going to Disney World — or Orlando, at least — for the Pro Bowl.

Mark Schultz

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Once again there will be some very deserving officials staying off the field this year. It seems to me that the number of high quality candidates for a playoff game are growing each year, so an on-field playoff assignment is a high honor.

In the wild card round, I have John Hussey, Gene Steratore, Jeff Triplette and Clete Blakeman. Hussey is in his third year as a referee and was a playoff alternate last year. Time for him to get some turf time in January. Steratore and Blakeman are playoff veterans, but some might be surprised at my guess of Triplette, who has been a borderline playoff official in the past. He had not major gaffes this year, so I predict he’ll get a post season assignment.

In the divisional round, I predict we will see Ron Torbert, Bill Vinovich, Brad Allen and Craig Wrolstad. Vinovich worked the conference championship round and is a Super Bowl veteran referee. Torbert and Allen call their first divisional round as referees and Wrolstad will call his second divisional game in three years.

Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. For my conference championship predictions, I’m going with one Ed Hochuli and Walt Coleman. That leaves out Tony Corrente and Terry McAulay, two playoff regulars. I think it will just be a sheer numbers game — too many good officials with too few playoff games.

The Pro Bowl is definitely a “kiss your sister” assignment, but it beats putting the gear away early. I predict Tony Corrente will work the Pro Bowl.

In the past, the Super Bowl officials come out of the divisional round. I predict Bill Vinovich will work the Super Bowl. Wrolstad worked a Super Bowl as a field judge, so he is a veteran of pressure games. He has an outside chance at working a Super Bowl this year, but I’ll keep my guess at Vinovich.  

Only 12 NFL games (including the Pro Bowl) left.

   Ben Austro    Mark Schultz   
Super Bowl   Ed Hochuli      Bill Vinovich   
Conference Championship     Ron Torbert    Walt Coleman   
Bill Vinovich      Ed Hochuli     
Divisional Playoffs       Clete Blakeman      Brad Allen   
Ed Hochuli    Ron Torbert     
Terry McAulay    Bill Vinovich     
Craig Wrolstad      Craig Wrolstad     
Wild Card Playoffs       Walt Coleman    Clete Blakeman     
Tony Corrente    John Hussey     
John Hussey      Gene Steratore   
Pete Morelli    Jeff Triplette     
Pro Bowl Gene Steratore      Tony Corrente     
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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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9 thoughts on “Our playoff predictions: Hochuli, Torbert, and Vinovich rank high

  1. Uhh Mark…Vinovich was on the field last year, & was likely top 3 since he was in the NFC Championship.

  2. The only requirement is that it cannot be back to back seasons. That being said, the NFL’s policy is that among those officials grading in “Tier 1” those officials who qualify but have never worked a Super Bowl will be selected even if the official may not be the top graded official at his/her position. The exception to this is if an official grades out at the top of his/her position in two consecutive seasons, but did not get assigned the Super Bowl in the previous season, he/she will get a Super Bowl assignment in the second season. With Mark’s predictions, if Walt Coleman graded out high enough to work a Conference Championship he is likely in “Tier 1” and, as he has never received an on-field assignment for the Super Bowl, he would get the game unless Bill Vinovich was the #1 ranked Referee in 2016 and 2017.

  3. My Predictions are as follows:
    Wild Card: Blakeman-Torbert-Wrolstad-Cheffers
    Divisional: Steratore-Anderson-Hochuli-Vinovich
    Conference: McAuley & Corrente (would work NFC since he had Pitt-NE in Week 15)
    Super Bowl: Steratore
    Pro Bowl: Coleman

    I believe the league has forgiven Steratore for his active stance during the officials’ strike a few years ago and this is his year for the SB. He would then get a divisional game as well. I think Parry, Allen and Morelli had good years as well and just missed. Although he had his best season in years, I’m still not sure Triplette gets a playoff assignment. Just some thoughts from a casual, but interested observer. Your replies are welcome

  4. Think steratore will be lucky to get a game because of index card fiasco in raiders/cowboys which might have cost raiders a win.

    Also think Tolbert may not get game bc of mistake in ruling on forward fumble in tn/pit game. I believe whole crew got downgraded.

  5. Pete Morelli was abysmal in the Falcons/Saints in week 16 and Eagles/Panthers in week 6. Penalty yards 126 to 1 in that one.

    In other words, Morelli needs to be as far away as possible from the NFC playoffs this year in my opinion.

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