The NFL said Thursday it will not resume the Bills-Bengals game that was suspended Monday night after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field.
The league said some of the factors in coming to its decision included that “not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game to its conclusion will have no effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the postseason and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game.”
Also, the NFL said playing the game between the Bills and Bengals would have required postponing the start of the playoffs by a week, and affecting all 14 teams that qualified for the postseason.
The NFL said its decision creates “potential competitive inequities in certain playoff scenarios.” The league said clubs on Friday, in a special league meeting, would consider a resolution recommended by the commissioner and approved today by the competition committee.
Hamlin has shown what physicians treating him are calling “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the team announced Thursday, three days after the 24-year-old player had to be resuscitated on the field.
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 scenarios approved by the competition committee include a potential neutral site for the AFC championship game. The league is considering several sites, including indoor and outdoor stadiums.
The resolution being presented to clubs for a vote on Friday follows:
The AFC Championship Game 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.
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.
"As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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