On Thursday night, the NFL confirmed that the Bengals’ Week 17 game against the Bills had been postponed.
On Monday, with fewer than six minutes left in the first quarter, the game was called off after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin had a cardiac arrest after a tackle. His heart was restarted on the field before he was transferred to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
In a statement released on Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “This has been a very trying week.” “We are encouraged by Damar Hamlin’s recovery and the outpouring of support for him and his family from all throughout the United States. We’d also like to thank the doctors and nurses who did so much for us.”
Doctors say Hamlin has exhibited “significant improvement” today despite still being in serious condition. That involves using his hands and feet to write and move about.
The NFL cited the fact that the outcome wouldn’t affect which teams made the playoffs, the fact that playing the game would have disrupted the remaining teams’ playoff schedule, and the fact that not playing the game would allow all clubs to know their playoff fate before Week 18 began as justification for their decision to cancel the game.
At the time of the delay, the Bengals had a 7-3 advantage in the game. NFL officials have repeatedly stated that the game will not be resumed after Hamlin fell and was taken to the hospital on Monday.
Week 17 began with both the Bills (12-3) and the Chiefs (13-3), but Buffalo held the head-to-head tiebreaker. If there had been a three-way tie for first place, Cincinnati (11-4) would have gotten the nod had they beaten the Bills. The AFC North title went to the Bengals after their Week 13 victory over the Chiefs in a repeat of the 2017 AFC Championship Game.
Due to the postponement, the league’s owners will vote on Friday on alternatives to having the AFC Championship Game at a neutral venue, with approval from 24 of 32 owners being required to constitute a three-fourths majority. This is conditional on the results of Week 18:
In the event of a win or tie by both teams, the Bills and Chiefs would meet in a championship game played at a neutral location.
* A Bills-Chiefs championship game would be played at a neutral site if both Buffalo and Kansas City lost and Baltimore won or tied.
A Bills or Bengals vs. Chiefs championship game would be played at a neutral site if Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins.
There has been no progress made in identifying possible neutral venues. The playoff seedings will remain unchanged.
Both the Bills and Chiefs need to win this weekend for Kansas City to earn the bye. In the event that Buffalo wins and Kansas City lose, the Bills will be the top seed and receive a bye in the first round.
The site of the AFC wild-card game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals would be decided by a coin toss if Baltimore were to win. Schedules will return to normal if Cincinnati wins or if the two teams are not paired against one other after a possible Ravens win.
Thursday’s approval came from the competition committee, which includes Bengals exec v.p. Katie Blackburn. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham got a note from Blackburn asking the committee members to vote against the scenarios that Blackburn drafted. The rule shift away from the typical winning percentages utilized in this situation provided the impetus for her thinking.
According to Blackburn, “the appropriate approach for making rule modification (sic) is in the off-season.” We shouldn’t put teams in a position to vote on something that could potentially introduce prejudice, favor one club over another, or affect their own situation right before the playoffs.
Goodell acknowledged “there is no ideal solution” in his statement.
He went on to say that the schedule was made to “minimize competitive inequities” and “reduce disturbance across the league” in football.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said his team was ready to play the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday as the NFL discussed postponing the Bills-Bengals game.
Those who choose to make those choices will be given the opportunity to do so, Taylor said. All that matters right now is getting ready for Baltimore on Sunday, so that’s what we’re doing.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has stated that rescheduling the game is unlikely.
Burrow said on Wednesday that New York City and Buffalo might share some goals. Our full backing is behind them no matter what they do next.