Cincinnati Bengals lose challenge to NFL changes
The Cincinnati Bengals weren’t happy with the updated NFL playoff scenarios that were released late Thursday night.
While they had every reason to feel that way, the team ultimately lost its fight to the NFL on Friday.
After officially canceling the Week 18 Bills at Bengals game, the NFL had to determine what Week 18 would look like for the Bengals, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. All three teams had a lot at stake for Monday’s game.
The Bengals are 11-4 and are currently a game and a half ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North standings. By default, when the NFL declared that the Bengals would only play 16 games this year, the Bengals became the AFC North champions regardless of what happens in Sunday’s game.
The reason is that overall record is the first determining factor in division titles. If the Bengals win, they will be 12-4 and the Ravens will be 10-7. If the Ravens win, the Bengals would be 11-5 and the Ravens would be 11-6.
The new NFL script has a big role in how the playoffs might look for the Bengals, and it’s not in Cincinnati’s favor. As it stands today, in the NFL rulebook, if a game is overturned, the winning percentage determines the playoff session. However, the league’s owners voted on the newly proposed scenarios Friday, and the Bengals came up short
Here is the NFL’s competing policy for canceled games.
“If a game is forfeited, a team’s position in its division or conference (eg, playoff wild card qualification or playoff seeding position) will be determined based on its record. his final When necessary, playoff tiebreakers will be calculated by the per-game average for all teams.”
If the Bengals beat the Ravens on Sunday, nothing changes and Cincinnati will host the Wild Card Round game at Paycor Stadium regardless of the opponent. Here is the layer that is unfavorable for the Bengals.
The NFL’s new proposal says if the Bengals lose to the Ravens in Week 18 and those two clubs are scheduled to play a Wild Card game against each other, which is highly likely, the site for that game will be determined by a coin toss. That means the Bengals can be the AFC North champions on paper and not benefit from hosting a playoff game like every other division winner.
That’s why the Bengals fought hard against the league’s proposal.
“As far as I’m concerned, we want the rules to be followed,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “When a game is called off, you just go to win percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make rules. There are a few times this season when a club gets fined or people in our building get fined and we’re told: ‘Follow the rules. It’s black and white. It’s in the regulations.’ So now when we highlight the rules and you’re told, we’re going to change it, I don’t want to hear about fair and equal when that’s the case.”
The NFL called a special meeting with owners Friday morning after the proposals were announced. For the proposals to pass, the league needed 24 votes. Twenty-five owners voted in favor. The Bengals needed nine votes in their favor for the proposal to fail and be redrafted and amended.
Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn is on the league’s Competition Committee and reportedly sent a memo to the rest of the league asking them to vote on Cincinnati’s behalf.
Taylor was pleased to see his ownership fighting hard for his team.
“They’ve got this team back,” he said. “It’s important that the team knows that because someone has to fight for you. It is clear that it does not come from the league. It’s great that our ownership and front office support players like them. This is important to us.”
The new playoff scenario is definitely not fair to the Bengals, but none of that will matter if the Bengals win on Sunday.
However, none of what happened this week was fair to anyone. If Cincinnati had beaten the Bills and Ravens, yes, they would have become the No. 1 seed. 2 of the AFC with a shot at the top, but there’s no way to know if that would have played.
There was always a chance Cincinnati would go on the road for the Divisional round. What no one believed could happen is that the Bengals, at 11-4, would ever lose home-field advantage in the Wild Card round, and that is now in question.
And as Taylor said, the Bengals can avoid all of that if they just win. That’s what they’re focused on moving forward.
“It seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and only negatives for us,” Taylor said. “So we have the opportunity to play for a coin flip that can only affect us negatively. We cannot afford to play for a coin flip that positively affects us. Again, let’s follow the rules and we accept that. We just have to turn our focus to preparing for Baltimore and then do everything we can to control what we can control at that point.”