NFL set to cancel Bills-Bengals game and is now considering some wild scenarios for AFC playoffs, per reports

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The NFL has made the decision to cancel the Bills-Bengals game that was postponed on Monday night, according to the Associated Press. 

The two teams played for nearly nine minutes before the game was stopped after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field. After being given CPR, Hamlin was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical center, where he’s been listed in critical condition for the past three days. 

The only thing on the NFL’s mind over the past 72 hours has been the health of Hamlin, which has improved remarkably over the past 24 hours. Two members of Hamlin’s medical team held a press conference on Thursday and revealed that not only is he moving both his arms and legs, but he’s also been able to communicate through writing with friends and family. (He even asked who won the Bills-Bengals game while communicating with a nurse on Wednesday night.)

With Hamlin’s health improving, the next step for the NFL was to decide how to move forward with the Bills-Bengals game. The NFL could have moved the game to next weekend, but that would have impacted the playoff schedule, so the league decided that cancelling it would be the easiest thing to do. 

Although cancelling the game was arguably the easiest solution, it still creates several issues. 

If the league sticks to its standard playoff format following the cancellation, all playoff seedings would be decided by winning percentage, which would be good for the Bengals, but bad for the Bills. In this case, the cancellation would give the AFC North title to the Bengals before they even take the field against Baltimore on Sunday.

The owners will hold a meeting on Friday regarding the AFC playoff-seeding issues, according to multiple reports.

Here’s a quick look at the biggest ramifications from the cancellation if the NFL sticks to its standard format for deciding playoff teams: 

  1. Chiefs in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed. The Bills (12-3) were in a spot to clinch the No. 1 overall seed by winning their final two games over Cincinnati and New England, but with the Bengals game canceled, the Chiefs (13-3) now would control the fate of the top seed. Kansas City would only have to beat the Raiders on Saturday to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC. 
  2. Bengals win the AFC North. The Ravens (10-6) probably won’t be thrilled with the Bills-Bengals cancellation, and that’s because the decision would give the AFC North title to Cincinnati. Even if the Ravens win on Sunday against the Bengals, that would put them at 11-6, which would still be a half game behind the Bengals, who would finish 11-5 with a loss. With a win over Cincinnati, the Ravens would sweep the Bengals and have the better division record, but still not get the AFC North crown. 
  3. Bengals can’t get the No. 1 seed. The upside for the Bengals is that this cancellation would give them the division title, but the downside is that it prevents them from getting the top seed in the AFC. If the Bengals had beaten the Bills and Ravens to close the season, combined with a Chiefs’ loss in Week 18, Cincinnati would have gotten the top seed, but the No. 1 seed will become impossible to claim for the Bengals with the cancellation. 

Of course, there’s no guarantee the NFL is going to go this route. As noted above, it would hurt the Bills’ chances of getting the AFC’s top seed and take away any chance Baltimore has of winning the AFC North. 

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, had mentioned earlier this week that the league was trying to come up with a solution that would be fair to everyone, which is why the NFL is also considering a few other interesting ideas. 

Here are several wild scenarios that the league is reportedly considering for the AFC playoffs. 

  • No. 1  seed gets to pick home-field advantage or first-round bye. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the league is kicking around the idea of giving the one-seed the option of taking EITHER home field advantage or getting a first-round bye. The No. 2 seed would then get the leftover option. 
  • Neutral site AFC title game. Another idea the league is considering would be to have a neutral-site AFC Championship, but only if the Bengals or Bills make it to the game. This means that if the Chiefs got the No. 1 seed, they would host any team seeded fourth or worse, but they would play at a neutral site against the Bills or Bengals. 

Although the NFL is considering these ideas, there’s no guarantee the league will go through with them. 

What this all means is that the NFL might be canceling the game, but there’s still a lot to figure out. 

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