The NFL announced Thursday that the game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, which was suspended on Jan. 2 following the collapse of Bills safety Damar Hamlin, will not be resumed or replayed.
The game was cancelled by the league, so both teams will finish the 2022 regular season with one fewer game played than every other team in the league.
“This has been a very difficult week,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also grateful for the incredible work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
Because of the significant playoff implications, the Bills-Bengals game on Monday night was one of the most important games of the season. Both teams entered the game with the possibility of earning the AFC’s top seed, as well as home-field advantage throughout the postseason and a first-round bye.
Not having to schedule a replay of the Bills-Bengals game will allow the NFL to start the playoffs next weekend as planned, which was a factor in the league’s decision. It will also keep the off week between the conference championship games on January 29 and Super Bowl 57 on February 12 intact.
“Our principles as we considered the football schedule were to limit disruption across the league and minimise competitive inequities,” Goodell said. “I understand that there is no perfect solution. However, the proposal we are asking the ownership to consider addresses the most serious potential equitable issues raised by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game in these extraordinary circumstances.”
What does this decision mean for NFL playoff seeding?
To begin, the Bills and Bengals will have played a disproportionate number of regular-season games in comparison to other teams. Clubs will vote on a resolution recommended by Goodell and approved by the competition committee calling for the AFC championship game to be played at a neutral site if both teams did not play the same number of games and could have been the No. 1 seed prior to Week 17.
As a result, the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals will all have a lot to play for in Week 18. The following three scenarios would result in a neutral-site conference championship via the NFL:
Scenario 1: If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or tie, the championship game will be played at a neutral site.
Scenario 2: Both Buffalo and Kansas City lose, and Baltimore wins or ties – a Buffalo-Kansas City championship game would be played at a neutral site.
Scenario 3: If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins, the championship game will be played at a neutral site.
Furthermore, if the Ravens defeat the Bengals in Week 18 – the two teams would have battled for the AFC North title regardless of the outcome of Cincinnati vs. Buffalo – a coin flip will determine which team plays at home if the teams meet in the wild-card round.