EXPLAINER: What Bills-Bengals cancellation does to playoffs

EXPLAINER: What Bills-Bengals cancellation does to playoffs

The NFL’s decision to cancel the Bills-Bengals game has major playoff implications for several teams.

The league is changing the rules for the postseason to accommodate the cancellation and will hold a special meeting Friday to ask teams to vote on a resolution recommended by commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the competition committee Thursday night.

Goodell said in a statement that the hope is to “limit divisiveness across the league and minimize competitive disparities,” adding later: “The proposal we’re asking ownership to consider, however, addresses the most important potential equity issues. created by the difficulties, but necessary, decision not to play the game in these extraordinary circumstances.”

The Bills-Bengals game was suspended Monday night after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest and had to be revived on the field. The 24-year-old was breathing on his own and able to speak Friday morning after his breathing tube was removed, and doctors said Thursday he was making “tremendous improvement.”

Buffalo (12-3) entered Monday night looking for a win to maintain the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) now hold that spot. Cincinnati (11-4) had a chance to clinch the top seed with two more wins and a Chiefs loss.


Not playing the game until its completion will have no effect on which teams qualify for the postseason. No team would qualify for the postseason or be eliminated based on the outcome of the game.

Resuming play would affect the other 12 teams in the postseason field because it would force the league to push the start of the playoffs back a week. The decision to cancel a game has less effect in most leagues.


Instead of canceling the game and awarding the playoff start with winning percentage, the NFL and its competition committee approved several changes that will be presented to club owners for a vote on Friday.

The AFC Championship match will be played at a neutral venue if the participating teams have played an uneven number of matches and both could be the No. 1 seed. 1 and host the game if all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.

These circumstances include Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team. If Buffalo and Kansas City win or tie this weekend, a Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, a Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site.

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

Also, if Baltimore beats Cincinnati in Week 18, the Ravens would have two wins over the division rival Bengals, but would not be able to clinch a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore’s 17 -Schedule of games.

Therefore, if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and these two clubs are scheduled to play a wild-card game against each other, the site for that game will be determined by a coin toss.

But if the Bengals win this weekend or if Baltimore and Cincinnati aren’t scheduled to play each other in the playoffs, the game sites will be determined by regular scheduling procedures.


Bills, Bengals, Chiefs and Ravens, due to three neutral options for the AFC Championship Game and the coin flip option for home field advantage for a possible Ravens-Bengals wild card matchup.


It is the first time since 1935 that each team will not play an equal number of games. The NFL’s 2022 policy manual for game operations states that “a team’s standing in its division or conference” will be determined by winning percentage if a game is called off. Due to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the canceled game, the league proposed new rules.


The league is exploring several options, including indoor and outdoor stadiums. Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, has a potential conflict due to a volleyball tournament.


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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