As NFL vote on AFC playoff modifications loomed, Bengals ownership pushed other teams to vote against changes
Cincinnati Bengals ownership pushed other NFL team owners to vote “no” on Thursday night’s playoff proposal, multiple sources tell CBS Sports.
NFL owners met at noon ET Friday to vote on proposed postseason changes that would include a neutral AFC Championship Game in some scenarios, along with the possibility of a coin flip that decides a game’s location Bengals-Ravens wild card possible. The changes were approved.
According to sources, the coin flip is what Bengalis have the biggest problem with. The league officially canceled the Bills-Bengals game and ruled it a no contest. The league has already crowned the Bengals as AFC North champions regardless of the outcome of their Week 18 matchup against the Ravens.
If the 10-6 Ravens beat the 11-4 Bengals on Sunday, there is a scenario where the Ravens are the No. 6 seed and the Bengals are the No. 3 seed. In any other year, that seeding would mean the game would be played in Cincinnati. But Baltimore would have won both games in the season series, and since the Bengals did not play an even number of games, the league has approved a coin flip to decide where that playoff game will take place.
Katie Blackburn, the Bengals’ executive vice president, oversees the day-to-day operations of the team. She was recently named to the league’s 10-member competition committee, and she voiced her concerns both in a phone call with committee members Thursday night and in an email to the NFL membership later. Sources described the email as “long” and “strong”.
According to league sources, Blackburn pointed out that the essence of winning a division title is being compromised through no fault of the Bengals. Running back Joe Mixon tweeted out the NFL’s policy manual for canceled games Thursday night.
The NFL’s rules outline what happens in the event of a forfeited game and say the league will rely on winning percentage to determine playoff seating. Blackburn stated that the rules on the books must be followed.
Blackburn and the Bengals would have needed eight more votes for the proposal to be rejected, which they did not get. Her strongest argument, according to multiple sources, was to appeal to the owners about the precedent this creates. While this change is only for one post-season and affects a maximum of four teams, Blackburn can point out that the rule change already on the books a week before the play-offs is not good for the league as a whole.
It is still unclear where the AFC Championship match will take place, if the factors in the proposal call for a neutral venue. Indianapolis, Detroit and New Orleans would be possible locations, but factors such as logistics, hotel availability and fairness must be considered. The league is also considering an outdoor site as Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati all play outdoors.