Under the proposed revised format, the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens could also flip a coin to determine the expected first-round playoff meeting location.
The NFL said the changes were recommended by Commissioner Roger Goodell and were approved by the league’s rulemaking competition committee on Thursday. They will be considered by the league’s team owners on Friday, who plan to meet via videoconference to approve the plan.
“When we think about the football schedule, our principles have always been to limit chaos across the league and minimize competitive inequality,” Goodell said. in a statement“I recognize that there is no perfect solution. However, the proposals we are asking owners to consider address the most important underlying fairness issues created by making the difficult but necessary decision not to play the game in these exceptional circumstances.”
After Monday’s game in Cincinnati was stopped in the first quarter, the NFL began to think about its schedule. Bills safety Damar Hamlin was injured during the game and went into cardiac arrest on the field. The game was postponed later that night. Hamlin’s doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday that he has made substantial progress in his recovery.
The league decided Thursday to call off the Bills’ game against the Bengals.
“It’s been a very tough week,” Goodell said. “We continue to follow Damar Hamlin’s recovery and are heartened by his improvement and by the tremendous support and care for Damar and his family across the country. We are also very grateful for the fantastic work done by the medical staff and commend each one of them. “
Damar Hamlin is awake and ‘recovering fairly well,’ doctors say
The two teams will each play 16 regular-season games, one less than any other NFL team. The AFC playoff seed will be determined by the team’s winning percentage.
The cancellation gives the Kansas City Chiefs a path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, ahead of the Bills. The Chiefs can make sure of that with a win over the Raiders in Las Vegas on Saturday. Before the postponement, the Bills had a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Chiefs this season; Beat the Bengals on Monday and the New England Patriots on Sunday to close out the regular season as the No. 1 seed.
To get around that, the league devised a system whereby if the Bills or the Bengals were the away team and could potentially host the game by winning Monday’s game, the AFC Championship Game would be played at neutral venues. So this only applies to certain results under the complex formula that will come into greater focus after this weekend’s results.
For example, if the Chiefs and Bills both win this weekend and then meet in the AFC Championship Game, the game will be played at neutral ground. In this case, the bill may come first. If they beat the Bengals on Monday, they’ll get the No. 1 seed. But if the Chiefs win on Saturday and the Bills lose on Sunday, Kansas City will have a Chiefs-Bills game in the AFC Championship Game. In that case, even if the Bills win Monday’s game, the Chiefs would be the No. 1 seed.
A person familiar with the plans said the NFL has yet to decide on a neutral venue for the AFC championship game.
Only if the Ravens win Sunday’s matchup between the two teams in Cincinnati will it be possible to decide the home team in the first round of the playoffs between the Ravens and the Bengals.
Once it decided not to reschedule the postponed game, the NFL sorted through a range of possibilities. There has been speculation about the prospect of adding an eighth playoff team in the AFC playoff field; adding an eighth playoff team in both conferences; Select first-round bye or home field advantage.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said earlier Thursday that the league would have to bargain with the union to add one or more playoff teams. Smith said he has yet to receive such an offer from the NFL.
The league is not considering adding an eighth team to the AFC playoffs, a person familiar with the matter said.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said Wednesday that “everything is under consideration.”
The league could have rescheduled the Bills-Bengals rematch as a stand-alone game with an added weekend to the regular season, delaying the playoffs and eliminating the break weekend between the league title game and the Super Bowl. Or, it could play the remaining postponed games over the weekend, including the NFC playoffs, while pushing back the AFC playoffs by a week. Instead, the NFL chose not to revisit the postponed games.
In recent seasons impacted by the pandemic, the league has had to reschedule its schedule. But this time, the postponement of the regular season came too late, and there was no wiggle room without postponing the playoffs.
Vincent said Wednesday that under the circumstances, the NFL’s scheduling decisions may not ensure a fair competition.
“As we’ve seen, there may be a lack of fairness,” Vincent said. “It may not be perfect, but it will allow those involved, who have earned the right to play, to continue playing.”