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What changes when regular refs return?

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Ed Hochuli is one of many veteran referees you'll see this weekend back on NFL fields.Now that the NFL’s national nightmare is over and the regular referees will be back for this weekend’s Week 4 action, what do NFL fans have to look forward to?

Average Time of Game in Weeks 1-3
Last 5 Seasons

QUICKER GAMES?

The 48 NFL games this season have taken on average nine minutes longer than they did through three weeks last year.

There have already been eight games that took longer than 3 hours, 30 minutes to play. That’s more than the total in Weeks 1-3 from 2008-11 combined (four).

Should all of that extra time be blamed on the refs? It is worth noting that 20 more coaches’ challenges have been called through the first three weeks of the season as compared to 2011.

FEWER HOLDING AND DEFENSIVE PASS INTERFERENCE PENALTIES?

While overall penalties called are actually slightly down with the replacement refs, there has been a noticeable increase in some of the more common calls.

Comparing the first three weeks of 2012 with the first three weeks of last season, the replacements called 23 more defensive pass interference and 25 more holding penalties.

VISITING TEAMS REJOICE?

There is a small sample size element at play here, but in the early going, the numbers from this season have shown a propensity for more laundry to be thrown at the visiting teams’ expense.

Penalties on Visiting Teams by Type
Weeks 1-3

There have been 40 drive-extending defensive penalties called against visiting teams on third and fourth downs as compared to 31 on home teams.

And remember those common penalties that are being called more frequently from above? The always controversial defensive pass interferences and holdings? Those increases were particularly apparent for the road teams.