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Bills-Bengals will not resume; Playoff scenarios revealed

Bills-Bengals will not resume; Playoff scenarios revealed

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Paycor Stadium is empty after the NFL postponed the game following an injury to Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin during the first half of an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills Monday, January 2, 2023 in Cincinnati . (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel) AP

By ROB MAADDI, Associated Press

updated January 5, 2023

The NFL said Thursday it would not resume the Bills-Bengals game, which was suspended Monday night after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field.

The league said some of the factors in its decision were that “the Buffalo-Cincinnati game not being played to the end has no bearing on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the post-season and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of that game.”

Additionally, the NFL said playing the game between the Bills and the Bengals would have required a week’s delay in the start of the playoffs and would have affected all 14 teams that qualified for the postseason.

The NFL said its decision creates “potential competitive imbalances in certain playoff scenarios.” The league said clubs would consider a resolution recommended by the commissioner and approved by the competition committee today at a special league meeting on Friday.

Hamlin has shown what doctors treating him are calling a “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the team said on Thursday, three days after the 24-year-old player had to be resuscitated on the field.

The Bills-Bengals game had a major impact on the playoffs for the AFC. Buffalo (12-3) started Monday night and needed a win to retain the AFC No. 1 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) now hold that spot. The Bengals (11-4) had a chance to secure that top spot with two more wins and a Chiefs loss.

The scenarios approved by the Competitions Committee include a potentially neutral venue for the AFC Championship game. The league is considering multiple locations, including indoor and outdoor stadiums.

The resolution, which will be put to the vote by clubs on Friday, follows:

The AFC Championship game will be played at a neutral venue when the participating teams have played an unequal number of games and both were seeded number 1 and could have hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.

Under these circumstances, either Buffalo or Cincinnati will qualify as the road team for the game. If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or draw this weekend, a Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be played at a neutral venue.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or draws, an AFC title game between Bills and Chiefs would be played at a neutral venue.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins, the Bills or Bengals would be in a neutral spot against Kansas City in the AFC title game.

Even if Baltimore beats Cincinnati in Week 18, the Ravens would have two wins against the Bengals, a division opponent, but cannot host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher win percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17- game plan.

Thus, if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and these two clubs play a wild card game against each other, the venue for that game will be determined by a coin toss.

However, if the Bengals win this weekend, or if Baltimore and Cincinnati don’t play each other in the wild card round, the venues would be determined through regular scheduling procedures.

“In looking at the football plan, our principle has been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive disparities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I realize that there is no perfect solution. However, the proposal we are asking owners to consider addresses the key potential equitable issues raised by the difficult but necessary decision not to play the game in these exceptional circumstances.”

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