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NFL Teams: Who leads in fines and suspensions?

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An analysis of which NFL teams lead in the league's fine and suspension categories.

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The 2023/24 NFL season witnessed an unprecedented amount of fines and suspensions, breaking records for the total amount teams had to pay.

But which offenses have contributed to the increase in fines during recent years, and which teams were the main culprits? In this deep dive, we’re uncovering the teams that consistently tested the boundaries and broke the rules, resulting in these record-breaking numbers.

Table showing the leading NFL teams for each fine and suspension category from 2020-23

The most frequent NFL fines and suspensions

Topping the list of the most common infractions is ‘Unsportsmanlike Conduct,’ noted a surprising 199 times. This category is followed closely by ‘Roughing the Passer’ with 84 recorded instances. ‘Taunting’ ranks third with 70 occurrences, highlighting teams’ tendency to let their competitive spirit cross the line. ‘Hits on Defenseless Players’ and ‘Impermissible Use of Helmets’ round out the list in fourth and fifth place, recorded 46 and 45 times, respectively.

Cowboys: The NFL’s bad sports

The Dallas Cowboys are named the most boastful team due to their six fines for ‘Celebration,’ while the Pittsburgh Steelers stand out with 13 fines for obscene gestures. These fines were attributed to their ‘machine gun’ celebration ritual against the Colts in 2022. 

The Cowboys also rank highly for bad sportsmanship, leading in ‘Unsportsmanlike Conduct’ with 14 infractions. The Seattle Seahawks follow in this category with 13, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 12.

In terms of ‘Taunting,’ the Kansas City Chiefs lead with six offenses, trailed by the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, each with five records. The Giants struggled to control their aggression, topping the chart for the most fighting violations with seven marks against their name.

Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers stand out for league misconduct

The Kansas City Chiefs lead in ‘Personal Conduct’ infractions with three citations, whereas the Las Vegas Raiders have a significant lead in ‘Conduct Detrimental to the League’ with ten fines, predominantly for failing to adhere to COVID-19 mask-wearing protocols.

‘Physical Contact With an Official’ infractions are evenly distributed among the Rams, Lions, Broncos, and Ravens, each with one count. The Los Angeles Chargers stand out for ‘Non-physical Offense Against an Official’, having been fined twice in this category. More trivially, the Tennessee Titans are the sole team in the last four years with a missed workout infraction.

Steelers and Cowboys prioritize fashion over function

In terms of equipment and uniform violations, the Pittsburgh Steelers lead with four infractions for ‘Facemask Penalties’. The Dallas Cowboys tie with the Steelers for general uniform fines.

The Ravens and Falcons dominate in rough play fines

The Ravens lead in ‘Blindside Blocks’ with four fines, while the Atlanta Falcons also top the list with three ‘Horse Collar Tackles.’

Thirteen teams have a single ‘Low Block’ infraction each, with no clear front-runner. ‘Striking, Kicking, and Kneeing’ have a singular instance from the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers. Similarly, ‘Tripping and Peelback Blocks’ are recorded once by multiple teams. The Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, and Los Angeles Chargers each have four instances of ‘Hits on Defenseless Players’.

Gambling and substance abuse; Spotlight on the Colts, Lions, and Seahawks

The Colts are top in gambling fines with two instances. Detroit Lions share the spotlight, also accumulating two infractions related to the violation of gambling policies. 

Furthermore, the Lions match the Seattle Seahawks in first place for substance abuse disciplinaries, tallying two each.

NFL total fine and suspension leaderboard

Steelers top the list with 53 infractions, closely trailed by the Dallas Cowboys at 42 and the New Orleans Saints at 40. On the flip side, the Philadelphia Eagles lead among the least punished franchises with only 13 fines.

The Los Angeles Chargers closely follow suit with a modest count of 15 infractions. The Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans maintain their reputation for playing by the rules, with 16 and 17 counts, respectively.

Who are the bad boys of the NFL?

Based on this examination, it’s evident that five teams are the NFL’s undisputed bad boys. The Steelers undeniably stand out as contenders, accumulating a surprising 53 disciplinary actions from 2020-23.

The Giants have struggled to rein in their fighting tendencies, solidifying their place on the list. The Cowboys’ lack of sportsmanship secures their position, and the Chiefs’ mischievous taunting ensures they’re also deserving of a bad reputation.

While the Titans may not lead in serious infractions, their inclusion on the list is warranted due to a missed workout. Tut-tut.

Sources

2023 NFL Fines & Suspensions | Spotrac

Methodology

Our methodology aggregated fine and suspension data, including pre and post-seasons, from 2020 to 2023. We analyzed the data to identify NFL teams with the highest number of infractions in each offense category. We also assessed cumulative totals to determine the NFL teams with the highest and lowest number of total infractions during this time frame. Data was compiled on the 7th of December 2023.

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