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Atlanta Announced as Neutral Site for Potential AFC Championship Game


The N.F.L. announced Thursday that Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta would serve because the neutral site for a possible A.F.C. championship game between Buffalo and Kansas City, should those teams advance.

That game can be played Jan. 29, a Sunday, at 6:30 p.m., Eastern time.

The N.F.L. last week approved a resolution to “mitigate the competitive inequities” attributable to the cancellation of the Jan. 2 Bills-Bengals game due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.

That game, in Week 17, had significant playoff implications. Each the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals were in contention for the A.F.C.’s No. 1 seed, which comes with a coveted bye for the playoffs’ first round and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

The N.F.L. postponed the sport after Hamlin’s collapse, then announced later that the sport wouldn’t be resumed or replayed. Kansas City was in first place when the sport was stopped after which won its final regular-season game to complete with a 14-3 record and hold on to the conference’s top seed.

Kansas City lost to the Bills (13-3) and the Bengals (12-4) throughout the regular season. Because Buffalo and Kansas City wound up playing an uneven amount of games, the N.F.L. decided that if the teams met within the conference championship, the sport must be played at a neutral site. A matchup between other teams for the A.F.C. championship can be played at the house stadium of the team with the upper seed, the league said.

In an announcement, the N.F.L. said playing the sport at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017 and hosted the Super Bowl within the 2018 season, would make sense since it is sort of equidistant from each Buffalo and Kansas City, Mo. (Buffalo is sort of 900 miles from Atlanta; Kansas City is sort of 800.)

Hamlin was discharged from a Buffalo hospital on Wednesday, and his continued improvement was cited by the league in its announcement.

“We’re heartened by the continued improvement and progress of Damar Hamlin in his recovery, and Damar and his family remain top of mind for the complete N.F.L. community,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said, adding that he was “grateful to Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons for agreeing to host the A.F.C. championship game.”

On Sunday, within the wild-card round, the Bills, who’ve the A.F.C.’s No. 2 seed, will host the Miami Dolphins, and the Bengals, with the No. 3 seed, will host the Baltimore Ravens.

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