NFL Cancels Bills-Bengals Game, Proposes Playoff Seeding Plan

Josh Allen or Joe Burrow

Last Monday night’s game between Buffalo and Cincinnati, which originally was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin was critically injured, has been officially canceled, the NFL announced late Thursday.

“This has been a very difficult week,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a league release. “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.”

The cancelation of the Bengals’ and Bills’ Week 17 game leaves two of the AFC’s top postseason teams with one fewer game played compared to the rest of the conference teams.

A special NFL meeting is being held Friday to address how the league will handle the difference in total games played, and it will also determine how the playoff seeding in the AFC will work. The Bills and Kansas City Chiefs both remain in contention for the No. 1 overall seed and the conference’s lone first-round bye.

Also announced Thursday was a resolution approved by the Competition Committee and recommended by Goodell with two parts addressing potential site adjustments for certain playoff matchups:

Part 1: Should the Chiefs face the Bills or a 12-win Bengals team in the AFC Championship Game, the teams would meet at a neutral site for the contest.

Part 2: Should the Ravens beat the Bengals in Week 18, and the two are scheduled to meet in the wild-card round, the site of the game will be determined by a coin flip.

Owners will need to ratify the resolution at the special meeting on Friday.

Week 18 is expected to continue as scheduled. The Bills and the Bengals have confirmed their teams will participate in their Week 18 matchups Sunday. The cancelation means the Bengals, who have four losses, will be the AFC North champions regardless of the outcome of the game against the Ravens, who have six losses.

The Bills, who practiced for the first time this week on Thursday, will play their next game against the Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bengals will play the Ravens at the same time. The Chiefs play at Las Vegas on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Here is what’s at stake this weekend:

>> If the Chiefs lose and the Bills win, Buffalo will be the AFC’s top seed and potentially would host the AFC Championship Game.

>> If the Chiefs win and the Bills lose, Kansas City will be the top seed and potentially the host of the AFC Championship Game.

>> If the Chiefs and Bills both win and were to meet in the AFC Championship Game, it would be played at a neutral site, per the NFL’s proposal.

The NFL began having conversations with both teams about possibly rescheduling the game on Wednesday, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said on a Wednesday conference call. Vincent cited how the league dealt with COVID-19 cancelations during the 2022 season as a possible template.

However, clearly, the league decided not to mess with the schedule any further.

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