The best news of all is that it appears as if Damar Hamlin is going to survive.
After collapsing on the field due to cardiac arrest during Monday night’s game at the Cincinnati Bengals, the safety for the Buffalo Bills is improving in the hospital after a scary incident that had millions around the world praying for his recovery.
According to reports, those prayers look like they are being answered and Hamlin will be OK.
While Hamlin’s health and well-being is the primary focus of Monday night’s incident, a secondary situation has popped up in that scheduling and seeding for the upcoming NFL playoffs has been thrown into a little bit of chaos.
Buffalo and Cincinnati were potentially playing for the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC portion of the playoffs, so those teams not completing that game has forced the NFL to come up with alternative solutions for playoff seeding/competition.
Going into the game, Buffalo and Kansas City were tied for the best record in the AFC, but Buffalo had the tiebreaker based on a head-to-head win. Cincinnati was one game back and had already beaten Kansas City, so a win over Buffalo would have given the Bengals tiebreakers over both teams.
One of the solutions announced by the league on Thursday was the possibility of the AFC Championship game being held at a neutral site, particularly if Buffalo or Cincinnati advance to it.
For the full announcement and list of scenarios after this week’s final games of the regular season that would trigger whether or not a neutral site is picked, click or tap here.
But in terms of where a neutral site AFC Championship game would be, below are five likely spots.
As a disclaimer, this list is provided with no direct knowledge or word of what the NFL’s thoughts are on potential neutral sites.
It’s only a guess based on past instances where a neutral site was needed for a game, including this year when Cleveland and Buffalo played at Detroit after a major snow storm prevented it from being played in Buffalo.
The list also assumes that cities/stadiums would be willing to step up and host.
The cities are listed in order of least likely to most likely.
5. New Orleans
Pros — The city has hosted 10 Super Bowls and not only would its domed stadium be ideal in January, but it would be a fun place for fans to be leading up to the game.
Cons — If two teams from the Midwest are playing in the AFC Championship game, the league might want to go for a more neutral location to make it easier on travel costs for fans.
Pros — Miami has hosted the most Super Bowls of any city (11), so holding huge games is a regular occurrence. The teams would also be more familiar with the surroundings given the Dolphins play in the AFC. The warm climate and pristine field would likely also take any weather elements out of play.
Cons — As is the case with New Orleans, it wouldn’t be a central location and not the easiest of places for fans of those teams to travel to on short notice.
3. New York/New Jersey
Pros — Playing the AFC Championship game in the biggest media market might be desirable for the league, and it also wouldn’t be much as travel for Buffalo and Cincinnati fans. MetLife Stadium is also a turf field that can hold up better.
Cons — If the league wants to go to a neutral site, they likely will favor indoor or warm-weather locations to take elements out of play. While traveling to the area for some fans might not take long, hotels, lodging and dining in the area would be expensive.
Pros — It’s a site in the Midwest with a beautiful domed facility, so it would be easy for fans of Buffalo, Cincinnati or Kansas City to get to and take any elements out of the game. Minnesota is also not as expensive as the other three aforementioned cities.
Cons — The Vikings are a playoff team in the NFC, so if enough results go Minnesota’s way, the league might need the stadium for the NFC Championship game.
Pros — Detroit has been called upon as emergency hosts on other occasions by the league, including for this year’s Cleveland-Buffalo game following a snow storm in Buffalo. In 2010, the Giants and Vikings moved their game to Ford Field after the roof collapsed at the Metrodome. The Detroit area would be a short trip for fans of Buffalo, Cincinnati or Kansas City, not as expensive to spend time in, and the game would be at an indoor stadium. In addition, the Lions haven’t hosted a playoff game since 1994, so an enthusiastic fan base would be thrilled at the chance of having the AFC Championship game in their backyard.
Cons — If Buffalo makes it, it would be the third time this year playing at Ford Field, so the league might view that as too big of an edge for the Bills. Also, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted out Friday morning that Ford Field might not be available anyway due to a pre-planned removal of its turf.
Is there a city we missed that could potentially be a good host for the AFC Championship game? Let us know in comments below.