On Thursday evening, the NFL announced its postseason plans in the aftermath of discontinuing Week 17’s edition of Monday Night Football between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals due to the emergency situation involving Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
First and foremost, the league confirmed that it will not make up the game between the Bills and Bengals; it is cancelled.
“This has been a very difficult week,” said commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
News that Hamlin had shown “remarkable improvement” broke earlier on Thursday.
Here is what the league described as key factors in the decision to cancel the game:
• Not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game to its conclusion will have no effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the postseason and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game.
• It would require postponing the start of the playoffs for one week, thereby affecting all 14 clubs that qualify for postseason play.
• Making the decision prior to Week 18 is consistent with our competitive principles and enables all clubs to know the playoff possibilities prior to playing the final weekend of regular-season games.
What happens with Kansas City’s seeding?
The proposed resolution states that the AFC championship game will be played at a neutral site if the teams who make it could have been the No. 1 seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season (the Bills and Bengals will finish at 16 games)
The circumstances that include the Bills or Bengals qualifying for the game as a road team are listed here (the scenarios are based on the Chiefs’ Week 18 game against the Raiders and the Bills’ Week 18 game against the Patriots):
Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie – a Buffalo vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties – a Buffalo vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins – a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
So this means that: if the Chiefs beat the Raiders on Saturday, they will clinch the No. 1 seed and AFC bye week — but not necessarily home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Deciding a Bengals-Ravens playoff location may include a coin toss
No, that’s not a typo. Here’s the league’s explanation on what to do with the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, who are matched up in Week 18:
If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18 it will have defeated Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, twice but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule.
If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are scheduled to play a Wild Card game against one another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.
No “perfect solution”
The commissioner closed with a statement:
“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” said Goodell. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”
Per the release, the NFL plans to hold what it’s calling a “Special League Meeting” on Friday, when owners will consider approving the resolution presented by Goodell and the competition committee on Thursday afternoon.
To be clear: All of the potential AFC playoff scenarios, coin flips, etc. we've been discussing were approved tonight by the NFL's competition committee. Tomorrow, all 32 owners will vote to approve. The proposals need a 3/4 majority to pass -- 24 of 32 owners must approve.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) January 6, 2023
So... what do we think?
As a Chiefs fan, what do you think of the NFL’s resolution?
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