The NFL’s proposals involving the cancellation of the Week 17 Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game and how it affects the postseason is, of course, imperfect.
As our Robert Zeglinski wrote, someone was going to be given the short straw, and it turns out that would be the Bengals.
Cincy is now the AFC North champion with its higher win percentage. But a Bengals loss to the Baltimore Ravens would trigger this scenario: The site for a Wild Card game between those two teams would be determined by coin toss. And if the Bengals make it to the AFC title game, they would play the Chiefs at a neutral site and in Buffalo if they face the Bills. Any chance they had at the No. 1 seed in the AFC is, of course, gone.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon tweeted this on Thursday after the news broke:
So we not following the rules no morepic.twitter.com/AreAM1xAsp
— Primetime!!! (@Joe_MainMixon) January 6, 2023
That’s the league’s policy manual, and Pro Football Talk noted the language cited in there:
Here’s the relevant language, from page A78, under the category of “Emergencies and Unfair Acts” and the specific rule entitled “Competitive Policy for Cancelled Games”: “If a game is cancelled, a team’s standing in its division or in its conference (e.g., qualification as a Wild Card in the playoffs or position in playoff seeding) shall be determined on the basis of its final record. When necessary, playoff tiebreakers shall be calculated according to per game average for all teams.”
There’s nothing about neutral sites or coin flips. Seeding is based on winning percentage, period.
That’s why the owners are involved. They’re changing the rules on the fly, during the 2022 NFL season.
Of course, the two answers here are: Damar Hamlin’s health is the most important thing to continue focusing on. And it was Hamlin’s collapse that was the most unprecedented of situations. The league is doing what it can in the face of that.
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