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NFL approves NEUTRAL site for potential Bills-Chiefs AFC title game

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NFL approves NEUTRAL site for potential Bills-Chiefs AFC title game

The NFL on Friday approved a resolution to move a potential Bills-Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship game to a neutral site after the league’s decision to cancel Monday’s Buffalo-Cincinnati Bengals game caused chaos in the playoff seedings.

Now, if the 12-3 Bills and 13-3 Chiefs both advance to the AFC title game, they’ll square off at a neutral site, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl. That potential neutral site has yet to be named, publicly. Both teams have one game left on their schedules this weekend, and will only be separated by percentage points for first place if they have the same result: win, lose, or tie.

The NFL also approved a proposed coin toss to determine homefield advantage should the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens find themselves in a first-round playoff matchup. The two teams meet in Sunday’s regular-season finale, and a coin toss will be avoided if Cincinnati wins to clinch the outright AFC North division title.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) lies on the field after making a tackle with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who is blocked from view, as Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) helps the end of play in the first half of an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) lies on the field after making a tackle with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who is blocked from view, as Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) helps the end of play in the first half of an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell faces the challenge of seeding playoff teams that have played different numbers of games, following the cancellation of Monday Night Football this week

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell faces the challenge of seeding playoff teams that have played different numbers of games, following the cancellation of Monday Night Football this week

The issues stem from the NFL’s decision to stop the remainder of Monday’s Bills-Bengals game, which was postponed after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered an on-field cardiac arrest and required resuscitation. Hamlin remains hospitalized in Cincinnati, where he recently had his breathing tube removed and even FaceTimed with teammates on Friday.

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The MNF matchup carried significant playoff implications for both the 12-3 Bills and 11-4 Bengals.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor has already expressed his frustration with the NFL’s proposed coin toss.

‘It’s black and white, it’s in the rulebook,’ Taylor told reporters Friday as NFL owners met to discuss proposed tweaks to this year’s playoff format.

Under normal circumstances, homefield advantage is determined by winning percentage.

“So we don’t follow the rules anymore,” tweeted Bengals running back Joe Mixon.

NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay addressed those concerns to reporters on Friday.

‘I would say not really [rules] was not followed,’ McKay said. ‘We don’t get everything in every rule and every policy manual. Sometimes when you are faced with situations, you have to try to make adjustments.’

The NFL could have opted for a neutral site in a potential Bengals-Ravens playoff matchup in two weeks, but decided there wasn’t enough time to settle in that event.

‘There is no perfect equity outcome here,’ says McKay.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor has already expressed his frustration with the NFL's proposed coin toss.  'It's black and white, it's in the rulebook,' Taylor told reporters Friday as NFL owners met to discuss proposed tweaks to this year's playoff format

Bengals coach Zac Taylor has already expressed his frustration with the NFL’s proposed coin toss. ‘It’s black and white, it’s in the rulebook,’ Taylor told reporters Friday as NFL owners met to discuss proposed tweaks to this year’s playoff format

The running back hit out at the NFL for not following its own policy regarding canceled games

The running back hit out at the NFL for not following its own policy regarding canceled games

Joe Mixon was critical of the AFC playoff scenarios released by the league earlier this week

Joe Mixon was critical of the AFC playoff scenarios released by the league earlier this week

The situation could be completely avoided if the Bengals beat the Ravens 10-6 on Sunday – a strong possibility considering Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson remains out with a knee injury.

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the complications facing the league in a statement Thursday.

“As we consider the football schedule, our principles are to limit disruption across the league and reduce competitive inequities,” Goodell said. ‘I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential fairness issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play under these unusual circumstances.’

The NFL normally awards playoff seeding by winning percentage, but that was complicated by the cancellation of Monday’s Bills-Bengals game.

Now the AFC title game would be played at a neutral site if the respective teams played an uneven number of games, and both would have hosted the tournament if a full 17-game season had been played.

In other words, if the Bills, who will play 16 games this season, enter an AFC title game meeting with the Chiefs, who have played a full 17-game schedule, the contest will be played on a neutral field.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will face the Buffalo Bills at a neutral site, if both teams advance to the AFC Championship - but only if both teams have the same result in Sunday's season finales: win, lose or tie

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will face the Buffalo Bills at a neutral site, if both teams advance to the AFC Championship – but only if both teams have the same result in Sunday’s season finales: win, lose or tie

Similarly, should the Bengals win their regular-season finale against the Ravens before ultimately advancing to an AFC Championship against the Chiefs, that game will also be played at a neutral site.

According to McKay, representatives for the Bengals, Chiefs and Bills have agreed to a neutral site resolution.

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The league’s decisions also affect a potential Ravens-Bengals Wildcard matchup.

If Baltimore beats Cincinnati Sunday, the Ravens will have two wins over the Bengals, but won’t host a first-round playoff matchup because Cincinnati will still have a higher winning percentage.

So, if both teams meet in the Wildcard round, homefield will be determined by a coin toss, the league decides.

The Bengals can still avoid that by clinching the AFC North title with a win on Sunday.

This season marked the first time since 1935 that NFL teams played an uneven number of games. League policy states that A team’s ‘standing in its division or its conference’ is determined by the winning percentage if a game is called off. But due to the unusual situation due to the canceled game, the NFL proposed new rules.

The NFL approved resolutions Monday to determine homefield advantage in some potential playoff matchups

The NFL approved resolutions Monday to determine homefield advantage in some potential playoff matchups