What Does the Bills-Bengals Cancellation Mean for the AFC Playoff Picture?
A possible neutral site game before the Super Bowl, seeding decided by winning percentage, the AFC top spot up in the air. There’s a lot to unpack from the news that the NFL decided they will not resume Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
Of course, everyone’s immediate primary thought was the heath of Damar Hamlin when he suffered a cardiac arrest after colliding with Tee Higgins on a tackle. Following the seemingly harmless hit, Hamlin collapsed moments after getting back up and was given CPR on the field before being taken off in an ambulance. Thankfully, Hamlin is now breathing on his own and “continues to progress remarkably,” according to his doctors.
After much deliberation, both teams and officials decided not to resume the game, leading to scheduling question marks as the outcome had major playoff implications. Well, today, the NFL has answered some of those questions, despite how murky and odd the scenarios could play out.
Put It In Neutral
Outside of the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, and overseas games, neutral sites are not the norm, especially when trying to move on in the playoffs. But that situation could come to a head this year.
If Buffalo and the Kansas City Chiefs both win or tie this week in their matchups with the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively, the AFC would be decided on equal ground. A neutral site game is very possible in this scenario as the Bills are -7-point home favorites, hosting their division rival, while KC is a -9.5-point favorite visiting its familiar AFC West foe, the Raiders.
AFC Championship Odds
Further to that is the real possibility of this pair of teams getting to the AFC title game. As we stand, Kansas City is the favorite to win the conference at +170, while the Bills are right behind them at +200. Cincinnati at least doubles both squads’ odds, back at +400, to grab the American Football Conference crown.
Enter the Bengals
If the Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Baltimore Ravens either win or tie at the Bengals, Buffalo, and Kansas City will fight for the AFC title on neutral ground. Cincinnati has won seven straight and are -9.5-point home favorites hosting their AFC North compatriots.
Here comes some of the most convoluted, wacky scenarios.
If KC and BUF both lose while the Bengals win, a Cincinnati or Bills vs. Chiefs AFC Championship will be decided on an evenhanded field.
Say the Ravens get by Cincy as near double-digit dogs this weekend. They will have beaten the Bengs twice this year, and both teams will finish with 11 wins. But the orange and black would have a better win percentage at 11-5 (69%) than Lamar Jackson’s squad at 11-6 (65%). Therefore BAL would not host a playoff game against whoever they are pitted against, and Cincinnati is the true AFC North champion.
Flip A Coin
If the Ravens win and Baltimore ends up getting matched up with the Bengals in a Wild Card game, the host would be decided by a coin toss….yes, a coin toss. If the division rivals don’t meet in the wild-card round, standard playoff scheduling/hosting rules apply.
Ok, got it? Don’t worry about it; my head is still spinning too. Regardless, enjoy the games and get your popcorn ready for some potential funky outcomes this weekend.
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