The postponed Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals the game will not be formed after the terrifying collapse of safety Damar Hamlin, the league said Thursday.
With one game remaining in the regular season, the NFL is still working out the details of how the now-cancelled game will affect playoff qualification, which begins Jan. 14-15.
The NFL recognized that canceling the game «creates potential competitive inequalities in certain playoff scenarios,» and said NFL clubs will consider a resolution at a special league meeting on Friday.
Part of this could involve the Jan. 29 AFC Championship Game being played at a neutral site.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in Thursday’s statement that «this has been a very difficult week» and that the league is focused on Hamlin’s recovery.
Because of the one canceled game, the Bills and Bengals will have played 16 games, while every other NFL team will have played 17.
The Bills had clinched the AFC East long ago and were in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed in the conference. Now 12-3, Buffalo trails Kansas City 13-3 for the top seed in the AFC, which carries a first-round playoff bye.
If the Bills had won Monday night, they would have had as many wins as the Chiefs while holding a tiebreaker over Kansas City.
This weekend, Buffalo plays New England; Cincinnati plays Baltimore; and Kansas City plays Las Vegas.
In the resolution to be considered by NFL teams on Friday, the AFC Championship Game would be played at a neutral site under three scenarios, according to the NFL:
- If Buffalo and Kansas City win or tie, Buffalo vs. Kansas City would be a neutral site for the championship.
- If Buffalo and Kansas City lose and Baltimore wins or ties, Buffalo vs. Kansas City would be a neutral site.
- And if Buffalo and Kansas City lose and Cincinnati wins, a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
Another component is whether Baltimore beats Cincinnati, the NFL said. In that case, Baltimore would not host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage based on the games each plays.
If Baltimore beats Cincinnati and both teams end up meeting in the wild card, a coin toss will determine the host.
Monday’s key game between the early Bills and the Bengals was called off shortly after 10 p.m. ET that night, with the NFL says game had been ‘postponed’ — leaving the door ajar for Buffalo and Cincinnati to restart the game at another time.
When Hamlin went down, the Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter.
Hamlin collapsed moments after dropping Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. The play appeared to be routine as Hamlin quickly got up and briefly grabbed or adjusted his own mask before falling backwards.
Hamlin went into cardiac arrest but his brain function appeared to be in good condition, the Buffalo Bills said Thursday, after days of uncertainty and concern.
«Damar has shown a remarkable improvement in the last 24 hours,» said the the team tweeted. «Although he is still seriously ill, he has shown that he appears to be neurologically intact.»
in its final games of the regular season, the Bills will host the New England Patriots and the Bengals the Baltimore Ravens. Both games are at 1 pm ET on Sunday.
The now-cancelled game would not have mattered as far as whether or not any other team made the playoffs, which the NFL said was a factor in the decision.
In Thursday’s statement about the canceled game and the postseason, Goodell said the league worked to minimize disruption and inequities.
“I recognize that there is no perfect solution,” Goodell said. «However, the proposal that we are asking ownership to consider addresses the most significant potential equity issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game in these extraordinary circumstances.»