Based on NFL policy for postseason assignments, referees who work the championship playoff round are among the highest-rated in the league. So it's safe to say that, by the league's estimation, Ed Hochuli and Bill Vinovich had excellent 2015 seasons.
Hochuli was announced this week as the referee for the AFC Championship Game. Vinovich will handle the NFC Championship Game. They will lead all-star crews composed of the top-graded officials at each position, and not necessarily the people they worked with during the regular season, making their tendencies less relevant in analysis.
But the referee sets the tone for any crew, so it's still worth taking a closer look at each man. Neither will work the Super Bowl; an announcement on that could come early next week.
Referee: Ed Hochuli
2015 with Patriots: Called nine penalties against the Patriots in both the team's Week 10 victory over the Giants and its Week 17 loss to the Dolphins
2015 with Broncos: Called five penalties against the Broncos in their Week 16 victory over the Bengals
Analysis: Hochuli's assignment brings up another little-known twist in the world of NFL officiating. Sunday will mark only his seventh Broncos game since the start of the 2001 season, which is as far back as the ESPN Stats & Information database goes. He has worked fewer Broncos games than games of any other team over that span. For context: He has done 14 Patriots games and as many as 22 games for other teams. But notably, the Broncos are 6-0 in the games Hochuli has been the referee since 2001. (The Patriots are 8-6.) ... The Broncos should feel fortunate that they didn't get Vinovich, with whom they are 1-6 since 2001. ... Patriots fans worried about offensive pass interference calls should note that Hochuli's regular-season crew called nine, slightly more than the average across all crews. ... He also was slow to flag "behavior penalties," having made the second-fewest total calls of personal fouls, roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct (18). For context, referee Jeff Triplette's crew called more than twice that total (41).
Referee: Bill Vinovich
2015 with Cardinals: Called three penalties against the Cardinals in their Week 13 victory over the Rams
2015 with Panthers: Called six penalties on the Panthers in their Week 8 victory over the Colts
Analysis: The NFL was probably doing itself a service when it avoided pairing Hochuli with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who said in September that Hochuli told him he wasn't "old enough" to earn a roughing penalty. Hochuli denied it to the NFL and there was no audio of the exchange. ... The Panthers are 4-1 in games when Vinovich officiates since 2001 and the Cardinals are 3-3. .. In the regular season, Vinovich called the lowest number of behavior penalties, one fewer than Hochuli (17). ... On the other hand, his crew led the NFL with 50 penalties for combined defensive holding, illegal contact and defensive pass interference. Defensive backs should be on notice.