NFL owners will meet Friday to discuss the league’s proposal to potentially play the AFC Championship at a neutral site after playoff seeding was affected by the cancellation of the Week 17 game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
That Buffalo-Cincinnati matchup, which carried significant playoff implications, was suspended Monday night after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field, suffering cardiac arrest.
Specifically, the league must decide where to play the AFC title game should the 12-3 Bills and 13-3 Kansas City Chiefs both advance to the playoffs. If both teams win, lose or tie in Week 18, they will only be separated by percentage points in the standings, which will present the league with some tough decisions.
The Bills and the NFL community received a positive update Thursday when doctors announced the 24-year-old is awake and has made ‘great improvement.’ On Thursday, the league announced that the MNF game would not continue.
NFL owners to meet to discuss AFC seeding as Bills-Bengals game canceled
Damar Hamlin is awake and showing signs of improvement after suffering cardiac arrest and being resuscitated during Monday’s Bills-Bengals game in Cincinnati
The Bills-Bengals game had major playoff implications and the league proposed playing the AFC Championship at a neutral site to resolve the seeding issue.
Buffalo (12-3) entered Monday night needing a win to keep the No. 1 seed of the AFC, while the Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) currently hold that spot.
The Commissioner’s office, as well as the club’s owners, now face the challenge of building an AFC Playoff picture without a result in Cincinnati.
NFL owners (left Bills’ Terry Pegula and right Bengals’ Mike Brown) meet to plan
The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC before Week 18
The NFL released a statement Thursday night outlining the proposal after the cancellation
The NFL released a statement Thursday night suggesting that if participating teams in the AFC Championship game played an uneven number of games and the two could be No.
NFL owners will meet Friday via video call to discuss the proposal.
THREE SCENARIOS INFERENCE ON NEUTRAL GROUND
14-3 Chiefs vs. 13-3 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bengals: neutral site
Events leading up to an AFC Championship game at a neutral site involve Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team.
First, if Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie in Week 18, a Buffalo vs. Kansas City Championship will be played at a neutral site.
If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, the Championship game between the Bills and Chiefs will also go to a neutral site.
And finally, if both teams lose but the Bengals win, then a Cincinnati or Buffalo vs. Chiefs game will follow the same result.
Week 18 has nothing to do with the possible Bills-Bengals AFC Championship game because it’s still in Buffalo, given that team’s superior record.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said these three scenarios are the league’s best answer to disrupting the race for the AFC’s top seed and anything that has been affected.
“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.’
It outlined three scenarios that would lead to the AFC Championship game at a neutral site
Another factor complicating the matter is the outcome of the Bengals’ game against the Ravens on Sunday.
If Baltimore beats Cincinnati this weekend, it will have beaten a divisional opponent twice but won’t be able to host a playoff game because the Bengals will have a higher winning percentage through 16 games, than the Ravens through 17.
Therefore, if the Ravens win on Sunday and the two teams are scheduled to face each other in a Wild Card game, then the league has proposed that the ground be determined by a coin toss.
The Bengals’ game against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday makes things even more complicated
If Baltimore beats Cincinnati this weekend, it will have beaten its division rival twice
While the Bills-Bengals game was postponed, Buffalo’s Week 18 game against the New England Patriots is still set to go on Sunday.
When pressed on why his team needs to play this weekend, Bills head coach Sean McDermott insisted his team owes it to their teammate as he revealed that Hamlin’s father, Mario, told them it was what the his son.
He said: ‘I have a strong feeling that as his father Mario mentioned to us, this is what Damar wants. We owe that to Damar and his family.’
Hamlin was sedated following his on-field resuscitation Monday, but began communicating with doctors in writing Wednesday as his verbal communication remains hampered by his respiratory tube.
The 24-year-old defensive back even asked the doctors who won Monday’s game, with quarterback Josh Allen saying he and his teammates ‘wanted’ to hear it as he showed what kind of salvation is human.
Bills head coach Sean MCDermott insisted his team owes it to Hamlin to play Sunday
Damar Hamlin is pictured next to his father, Mario, during his playing days in Pittsburgh
Hamlin hit Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the first quarter of the game and stood up before immediately leaving the game.
Bills assistant trainer Denny Kellington gave Hamlin life-saving CPR on the field after he collapsed before the safety was taken to the hospital.
Speaking at the Bills’ first media availability since the incident, McDermott hailed the assistant trainer as a ‘true hero’.
‘To give it context, Denny is one of our assistant trainers,’ McDermott explained. ‘Like our team, their team goes through mock exercises for these kinds of things, but we’re not around for that. As they say, practice pays.
‘For an assistant to find himself in that position and lead and step up like he did, it’s nothing short of amazing,’ he continued as he paid tribute to the assistant. ‘The courage it took, you’re talking about a true leader and a true hero, for saving Damar’s life. I admire her strength.’