Bills-Bengals game canceled, creating many playoff scenarios

First the unprecedented decision.

Next, the creative solutions.

The NFL announced late Thursday that the Buffalo Bills’ game at the Cincinnati Bengals – suspended after Bill’s safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field – will not resume and has been canceled.

The news comes amid positive developments in the recovery of Hamlin, who remains in the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s intensive care unit but has improved dramatically.

“While there is still a long way to go, all signs are optimistic, very optimistic, and point to a likely full neurological recovery,” said Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Assn.

With the postseason a little over a week away, the cancellation of Bills-Bengals leaves seeding in the AFC in flux and creates potential competitive imbalances. As such, the NFL will hold a special league meeting Friday to consider a resolution recommended by Commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the Competitions Committee Thursday.

While Buffalo and Cincinnati finish with 16 games, the other 30 teams will have played 17 each.

If the Bills and/or Bengals advance to the AFC Championship game – and if they would have hosted that game but for the cancellation of their suspended matchup – the title game will be played at a neutral venue.

Week 18 results consider possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: Buffalo and Kansas City either win or both tie – a championship game between Buffalo and Kansas City would be played at a neutral venue.

Scenario 2: Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or a tie — a championship game between Buffalo and Kansas City would be played at a neutral venue.

Scenario 3: Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins — a championship game between Buffalo or Cincinnati and Kansas City would be played at a neutral venue.

If Baltimore beats Cincinnati in Week 18, it will have beaten Cincinnati, a division opponent, twice, but cannot host a playoff game because Cincinnati on a 16-game schedule has a higher win percentage than Baltimore on a 17-game schedule.

If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs play a wildcard game against each other, the venue for that game will be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game, or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play in the wild card round, the venues will be determined through regular scheduling procedures.

“When looking at the football plan, our principle was to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive disparities,” Goodell said. “I realize that there is no perfect solution. However, the proposal we are asking owners to consider addresses the key potential equitable issues raised by the difficult but necessary decision not to play the game in these exceptional circumstances.”

Goodell commended the first responders and other medical personnel who successfully restarted Hamlin’s heart, including the nine-minute CPR on the field.

“It’s been a very difficult week,” Goodell said. “We remain focused on Damar Hamlin’s recovery and are heartened by the improvements in his condition and the tremendous support and concern for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly grateful for the great work of the medical staff and applaud each and every one of them.” Bills-Bengals game canceled, creating many playoff scenarios

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