NFL owners passed a resolution Friday allowing the AFC championship game to be played at a neutral site in response to the cancellation of Monday’s game between the Bills and Bengals after safety Buffalo asphalt collapsed on Hamlin’s field.
The teams held a special meeting to consider the recommendation of commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s competition committee.
“We believe this is a focused approach that affects only four teams and directly addresses the potential for competitive disparity as a result of 30 teams playing 17 games and two playing just 16 teams,” Goodell said via video conference. ” “It was necessary that the owners vote (on Friday) so that the clubs know at the weekend what is at stake.”
The league opted to cancel the Bills-Bengals game rather than reschedule it this or next week to avoid disrupting the start of the post-season.
The meeting of the Bills and Bengals had a significant impact on the American Conference in the post-season. Buffalo (12-3) entered Monday needing a win to retain its No. 1 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) have it in place for now. The Bengals (11–4) had a chance to clinch first place with two wins and one Chiefs loss.
If the participating teams played fewer games then the AFC champion would play at a neutral site and both would have a chance to finish at the top of the conference and receive a match had they completed the 17-game schedule.
The league is considering several venues, including indoor and outdoor stadiums.
These situations include Buffalo or Cincinnati, should they qualify with road games. If Buffalo or Kansas City win or tie this week, the AFC title game between the Bills and Chiefs will be played at a neutral site.
If Buffalo and Kansas City lose and Baltimore wins or ties, the AFC Championship matchup between the Bills and Chiefs will also take place at a neutral site.
In the event of a Cincinnati win, Buffalo and Kansas City loss, the Bills or Bengals game against Kansas City for the AFC championship would be played at a neutral site.
In addition, if Baltimore beats Cincinnati in Week 18, the Ravens will have two wins over the divisional rival Bengals, but could not host a post-season duel because Cincinnati will have a better winning percentage in the 16-game schedule than Baltimore. 17 in comparison.
Therefore, if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and those two teams were to meet again in a wild card matchup, the site of the matchup would be determined by a toss-up.
However, should the Bengals win this weekend or if Baltimore and Cincinnati do not meet in the wild card round, the spot will be determined by normal schedule process.
Bengals coach Zach Taylor has made it clear that he does not agree with the league’s rule changes. The NFL’s policy manual for the conduct of matchups clarifies that the “ranking of teams in a division or conference” will be determined by the number of matchups if a game is canceled.
“We just want to follow the rules,” Taylor explained.