On such short notice, there especially was never going to be a perfect solution to seeding the AFC playoffs. After Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on Monday night — eventually leading to the league cancelling Bills-Bengals outright — that left a mess on the football field for the league to try and make every AFC contender as happy as possible.
Unfortunately, by taking a game off the docket (an entirely reasonable solution), some had to make more sacrifices than others. In this case, should the NFL’s proposal pass through on Friday, it will be the Bengals — who won’t have a guaranteed home playoff game despite winning their second-straight AFC North title. (Fate, in the form of a coin toss, might be in their cards!)
And, perhaps more importantly, they would play in Buffalo no matter what happens in Week 18 should the two teams meet up in a potential AFC Championship Game:
Cincy will be the AFC North champion, but won’t have the benefits of being the champ (with a home playoff game), but will have a harder schedule next year, and potentially a later draft pick. It’s not perfect, assume they are not pleased. Alas. https://t.co/eRexICjEiH
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 6, 2023
A summary of the proposal for the AFC Championship Game:
14-3 Chiefs vs. 13-3 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bengals: neutral site
Week 18 has no bearing on a possible Bills-Bengals championship game: that would be in Buffalo.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 6, 2023
Someone was likely always going to have to take the brunt of the league’s shifting playoff plans. That said, it’s more than fair to wonder why the Bengals had to take that weight on rather than, say, the Chiefs, who lost to both the Bengals and Bills earlier this year.
Such is life in an unfortunate situation that would never have the ideal, 100-percent, perfect answer.