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NFL won’t reschedule Bills-Bengals game, set to switch AFC playoffs


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The NFL won’t reschedule Monday night’s postponed game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, and the league said Thursday that it’s poised to regulate its playoff format in an attempt to deal with the competitive inequities arising from that cancellation.

Under the revised system, the AFC championship game could possibly be played at a neutral site, under certain conditions. Those circumstances involve the Bills or Bengals reaching the sport because the road team.

The Bengals and Baltimore Ravens also could have the positioning of a prospective opening-round playoff meeting determined by a coin flip, under the modified format being proposed.

The modifications were beneficial by Commissioner Roger Goodell and were approved Thursday by the league’s rulemaking competition committee, the NFL said. They might be considered Friday by the league’s team owners, who’re scheduled to fulfill by videoconference for possible ratification of the plan.

“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said in an announcement. “I recognize that there isn’t a perfect solution. The proposal we’re asking the ownership to contemplate, nonetheless, addresses essentially the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but crucial, decision to not play the sport under these extraordinary circumstances.”

The NFL’s deliberations over its scheduling issues began after Monday’s game in Cincinnati was stopped through the first quarter. Bills safety Damar Hamlin was injured on a success and suffered cardiac arrest on the sphere. The sport was postponed later that night. Hamlin’s doctors on the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday that he had made substantial progress in his recovery.

The league decided Thursday to declare the Bills-Bengals game a cancellation.

“This has been a really difficult week,” Goodell said. “We proceed to concentrate on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition in addition to the tremendous outpouring of support and look after Damar and his family from across the country. We’re also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each one among them.”

Doctors on the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Jan. 5 that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was awake and will move his hands and feet. (Video: Reuters)

Damar Hamlin is awake, has made a ‘fairly remarkable recovery,’ doctors say

Those two teams will play 16 regular season games apiece, one fewer than other NFL teams. The playoff seedings within the AFC might be determined by teams’ winning percentages.

The cancellation gives the Kansas City Chiefs a pathway to the highest playoff seed within the AFC, ahead of the Bills. The Chiefs can secure that with a victory Saturday in Las Vegas over the Raiders. Before the postponement, the Bills had been just ahead of the Chiefs based on a tiebreaker advantage from a head-to-head victory this season; they might have secured the No. 1 seed by beating the Bengals on Monday and the Latest England Patriots on Sunday to complete the regular season.

To handle that, the league devised a system by which the AFC title game could be played at a neutral site if the Bills or the Bengals are the road team and potentially could have hosted the sport by winning Monday’s game. In order that applies only to certain outcomes under a fancy formula that may come into sharper focus after this weekend’s results.

If the Chiefs and Bills each win this weekend, for instance, after which meet within the AFC championship game, the sport could be played at a neutral site. Under that scenario, the Bills might have been the No. 1 seed in the event that they’d beaten the Bengals on Monday. But when the Chiefs win Saturday and the Bills lose Sunday, a Chiefs-Bills game within the AFC title game could be played in Kansas City. Under that scenario, the Chiefs would have been the highest seed even when the Bills had won Monday’s game.

The NFL has not yet determined where a neutral-site AFC championship game could be played, an individual acquainted with the plan said.

The coin-toss possibility for determining the house team in a prospective Ravens-Bengals game within the opening round of the playoffs only comes into play if the Ravens win Sunday’s matchup between the 2 teams in Cincinnati.

Once it decided to not reschedule the postponed game, the NFL sorted through a spread of possibilities. There was speculation concerning the prospects of adding an eighth playoff team to the AFC’s postseason field; adding an eighth playoff team in each conferences; or making the AFC’s top-seeded team choose from either having a first-round bye or home-field advantage within the conference title game.

DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players Association’s executive director, said earlier Thursday that the league would have needed to bargain with the union so as to add a playoff team or teams. Smith said he had not received such a proposal from the NFL.

The league didn’t consider adding an eighth team to the AFC playoffs, an individual acquainted with the deliberations said.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice chairman of football operations, said Wednesday that “the whole lot is being considered.”

As Bills safety Damar Hamlin stays hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest, players and health workers discuss his care and ways to make the sport safer. (Video: Wealthy Matthews/The Washington Post)

The league could have rescheduled a Bills-Bengals resumption as a stand-alone game in a further weekend added to the regular season, pushing back the playoffs and eliminating the off weekend between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. Alternatively, it could have played the rest of the postponed game on a weekend including NFC playoff games while pushing back the AFC playoff games by per week. As a substitute, the NFL selected to not revisit the postponed game.

The league needed to take care of rearranging its schedule in recent seasons affected by the pandemic. But this time, the postponement got here so late within the regular season that there was no room to maneuver without pushing back the playoffs.

Vincent said Wednesday that the NFL’s scheduling decision may not have the option to make sure competitive fairness, under the circumstances.

“As we saw, potentially there could also be an absence of equity,” Vincent said, “where it might not be perfect but it can allow those which are participating, who’ve earned that right to play, to proceed to play.”

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