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NFL preps ticket sale for AFC Championship Game without the Bengals


CINCINNATI (WXIX) – The NFL on Tuesday advised the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills to start selling tickets for an AFC Championship Game that assumes the Bengals will lose this weekend.

The Chiefs and Bills can to begin selling tickets from their allotment “in preparation for a scenario by which a neutral site game would happen” at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

A neutral-site AFC Championship Game would only result if each the Chiefs and Bills advance from the Divisional Round. The Bills host the Bengals, and the Chiefs host the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The opposite three possible results are as follows:

  • If the Chiefs and Bengals win, Cincinnati would head to Kansas City;
  • If the Jaguars and Bengals win, Jacksonville would head to Cincinnati; and
  • If the Jaguars and Bills win, Jacksonville would head to Buffalo;

If the AFC Championship Game is anywhere else than Atlanta, the tickets sold starting Wednesday will robotically be refunded.

(We’ve got reached out to the Bengals front office to see whether or not they have been given permission to start selling tickets for a possible Bengals home AFC Championship Game but haven’t heard back as of this writing.)

It’s the most recent unprecedented consequence from the NFL’s unprecedented decision to cancel the Bengals-Bills Monday Night Football game three weeks ago after Damar Hamlin’s on-field collapse at Paycor Stadium. (Though ESPN reports Bengals head coach Zac Taylor had more to do with that than the NFL did, and Bengals owner Mike Brown backs that up.)

The sport ended with Cincinnati ahead 10-0. Had the Bengals won, the Bills can be traveling to Cincinnati for the Divisional Round.

In other words, the Bengals will play the Bills in Buffalo on Sunday although they might need hosted the Bills had the canceled game continued.

As an alternative, the NFL relied on final winning percentage to find out the Divisional Round matchups while conjuring impromptu format changes that appear to accommodate other teams and disproportionately harm the Bengals.

[Zac Taylor slams the NFL’s playoff changes]

Cincinnati’s front office was quick to indicate the inequity of a mid-season rule change voted upon by teams that stood to profit materially from one consequence.

“It looks as if there are positives for lots of teams and just negatives for us,” Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor said the day after the NFL released the format changes.

“So we have now the chance to play for a coin flip that may only negatively impact us… We don’t have the flexibility to play for a coin flip that may positively impact us? Again, let’s just follow the principles.”

More non-Bengals fans are starting taking notice within the run-up to the Buffalo game. Tweets expressing belated bafflement began drawing significant attention on Twitter Monday evening. (See below, and also, and also, and also, and also, and also, and also, and also, and also, et cetera.)

A possible Chiefs/Bills AFCCG is at a neutral site because had Bills won Week 17 MNF, they’d be higher seed. So split the difference; neither plays at home.

But when Bengals had won Week 17 MNF, they’d be a greater seed than Bills. So why is not Bengals/Bills game at a neutral site?

— Lee Sharpe (@LeeSharpeNFL) January 16, 2023

Playing in Buffalo is not any easy task. It’s a raucous environment where weather could play a job. Furthermore, studies suggest officials at various levels of competition, across a wide range of sports, naturally favor home teams. Oddsmakers often give hosting teams a three-point edge to account generally for home-field advantage.

For the Bengals’ part, they’re embracing the challenge.

“That’s what this team is built for,” Taylor said on BallySportsCincy. “Really, at this point, we wouldn’t want it another way. Let’s learn earn every part. Let’s go into one of the hostile environments in all of football.

“We’re looking forward to it. We comprehend it isn’t going to be easy. We comprehend it’s going to be loud. We comprehend it’s going to be windy. But we’re going to embrace that stuff and do our greatest to go placed on a show.”

[Full Bengals coverage]

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