The NFL has canceled the Week 17 contest between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. According to ESPN, the major matchup between the two AFC powerhouses would be best canceled due to three factors that would better suit the 2022 playoff landscape.
First, Commissioner Roger Goodell and the National Football League stated that the canceled game wouldn’t impact other games qualified for the American Football Conference playoff. Secondly, going through with the Bills-Bengals exhibition would have complicated the postseason for other teams. Lastly, canceling the game also gives a level playing field for every playoff qualified NFL team ahead of Week 18’s slate of games.
The league’s commissioner stated that the NFL was focused on Hamlin’s recovery after his collapse on Monday night and made the decision with his health in mind.
“This has been a very difficult week,” Goodell said in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
During the MNF presentation, Cincy was winning 7-3 over the Bills before the game was suspended. While it was speculated that the football league was interested in continuing the game after Damar Hamlin was transported to a hospital, the NFL clarified “there were no plans for the game to continue.”
Due to the NFL’s decision, owners around the league will hold a vote Friday (Jan. 6) to decide what scenarios will take place depending on Week 18 outcomes. If approved, the NFL’s competition committee will hold a neutral site for the AFC Championship if necessary. The league will need 24 of 32 owners to vote in favor of the alternative resolutions to approve the unprecedented move.
The following scenarios will be considered in the vote: in the event that the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs win or end in tie, a potential Buffalo-Chiefs championship game would be held at a neutral location; if Buffalo and KC both lose and the Baltimore Ravens snag a W or tie, a Bills-Chiefs championship game will be held at a neutral location. In the scenario that the Orchard Park squad and the Chiefs both lose and the Bengals win, a Bills/Bengals vs. Chiefs championship game will also be neutrally located.
Additionally, if Buffalo and Kansas City both win, the Chiefs will receive a bye week at the beginning of the playoffs. If Buffalo wins and KC takes an L, the Bills will be dubbed the No. 1 seed and receieve the bye, with no neutral sites needed.
The NFL has stated that the neutral sites have yet to be decided upon.