How Bengals vs. Bills cancellation could impact Kansas City's playoff picture

Bengals Chiefs Football
Posted at 9:01 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 09:08:30-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If the Kansas City Chiefs win Saturday at Las Vegas, coach Andy Reid’s squad will finish with the best record in the AFC at 14-3.

But they may not host the AFC Championship Game.

That’s because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to recommend a resolution at a Special League Meeting on Friday that would ensure the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals aren’t punished for the cancellation of their Week 17 showdown.

"Cancelling the game between the Bills and Bengals creates potential competitive inequities in certain playoff scenarios," the NFL announced on Thursday evening. "In an effort to mitigate those inequities, NFL clubs will consider tomorrow (Friday) in a Special League Meeting a resolution recommended by the Commissioner and approved today (Thursday) by the Competition Committee."

The Bengals led 7-3 with around 5 minutes left in the first quarter Monday at Paycor Stadium when Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field before being transported via ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The game was postponed initially and canceled altogether Thursday to avoid impacting the entire NFL playoff slate.

Had the Bills won and finished with the same record as the Chiefs, coach Sean McDermott’s squad would have hosted an AFC Championship Game between the teams by virtue of a Week 6 head-to-head win.

With that in mind, if Kansas City and Buffalo both win this weekend — the Chiefs play Saturday at the Raiders and the Bills host New England on Sunday — an AFC Championship Game between the two teams would be played at a neutral site.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore beats Cincinnati, a Chiefs-Bills AFC Championship Game still would be played at a neutral site.

If Kansas City and Buffalo lose and Cincinnati beats the Ravens, a Chiefs-Bengals AFC Championship Game would be played at a neutral site as well.

Cincinnati beat Kansas City in Week 13, giving the Bengals a potential tiebreaker against the Chiefs if they finished with the same record.

Hamlin's doctors said Thursday he's now communicating via pen and paper after being sedated Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This has been a very difficult week,” Goodell said. “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.”

Additionally, if Baltimore beats Cincinnati and the clubs are set to meet in the Wild Card round, the host team for the game would be determined via coin flip.

However, the Bengals are guaranteed to have a higher win percentage regardless of the outcome of the season finale against the Ravens.

That means, if Cincinnati and Baltimore are set to meet in the Wild Card round, the Bengals would host and the Ravens would be a road team based on normal NFL playoff scheduling procedures.

“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”

It is unclear how playoff seeding will be determined. The NFL's release didn't address how it will handle which team is given the top seed and a first-round bye if Kansas City, Buffalo and/or Cincinnati all finish within a half-game after Sunday's action.