NFL owners have approved a resolution that could lead to a neutral site for the AFC championship in response to the cancellation of Monday night’s Bills-Bengals game after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field.
NFL teams held a special meeting Friday to consider the recommendation of Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s competition committee.
Hamlin is breathing on his own and able to talk after having his breathing tube removed, his agent said Friday. It’s the latest step in his remarkable recovery in the four days since going into cardiac arrest during the game at Cincinnati. Hamlin even joined the Bills’ team meeting via videoconference.
The Bills-Bengals game had major playoff implications for the AFC. Buffalo (12-3) entered Monday night needing a win to maintain the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) now hold that spot. The Bengals (11-4) had a chance to earn that top seed with two more wins and a loss by the Chiefs.
The AFC championship will be played at a neutral site if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the No. 1 seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.
The league is considering several sites, including indoor and outdoor stadiums.
Those circumstances involve Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team. If Buffalo and Kansas City both 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, Bills or Bengals against Kansas City in the AFC title game would be at a neutral site.
Also, if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18, the Ravens would have two wins over the Bengals, a divisional opponent, but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule.
Therefore, if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are schedule to play a wild-card game against each another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss.
However, if the Bengals win this weekend or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play each other in the wild-card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.