The New England Patriots are playing successful football this season: The team secured its eighth straight season of 12+ wins on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, won its ninth straight division title one week earlier, and is on its way to earn the AFC's number one playoff seed yet again. The Patriots are doing all that by playing the brand of football that has made the franchise the NFL's only dynasty of the 21st century.
Bill Belichick's team is routinely making smart decisions - hi, Pittsburgh Steelers - this season, is performing in high-pressure situations and is showing the ability to overcome injuries. What the Patriots are also doing is not shooting themselves in the foot and a look at the NFL's penalty numbers reflects this: New England is one of the least-penalized teams in the league through the first 16 weeks.
Overall, referees called 103 penalties against the Patriots ranging from a season-high 12 in week five against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a season-low one against the Denver Broncos in week ten. New England sees an average of 6.87 flags thrown against it per game, losing 52.4 yards in the process. Only one team in the league - the Carolina Panthers - is penalized less than the Patriots.
Of course, the total number of penalty tells only a part of the story. After all, the team has played the seventh-most snaps in the NFL - so naturally the chance of getting penalties is higher with the added exposure. However, the Patriots still rank number two on a per-snap average: New England gets flagged on 3.82% of plays, ranking only behind the Panthers' 3.03% and slightly ahead of the third-ranked New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens (both 3.89%).
With the postseason on the horizon, games will get closer and one untimely mistake - and penalties often are just that - could be the difference between advancing to the next round or seeing the season come to an end. New England appears to be well equipped to avoid the latter as a look at the numbers above shows.