NFL: Bills-Bengals won’t start again; Play off scenarios revealed

The NFL will not resume the suspended Bills-Bengals game Monday night after Buffalo safety Tamar Hamlin collapsed and suffered a heart attack on the field, the NFL said Thursday.

“Not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game at its conclusion will have no effect on which club qualifies for the postseason,” the league said. No club will qualify for the post-season and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game.

Also, playing the game between the Bills and Bengals would have forced the start of the playoffs to be postponed by a week, affecting all 14 teams that qualified for the postseason, the NFL said.

The NFL said its decision creates “potential competitive imbalances in certain playoff situations.” The league said on Friday the clubs, at a special league meeting, would consider the resolution recommended by the commissioner and approved by the competition committee today.

Hamlin has shown significant improvement over the past 24 hours by doctors treating him, the team announced Thursday, three days after the 24-year-old had to be resuscitated on the field.

The Bills-Bengals game had big playoff implications for the AFC. Buffalo (12-3) entered Monday night needing a win to maintain the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) now hold that spot. The Bengals (11-4) had a chance to clinch that top spot with two more wins and one loss by the Chiefs.

Scenarios approved by the competition committee include a potential neutral site for the AFC Championship Game. The league is considering multiple venues, including indoor and outdoor arenas.

The resolution put to the clubs for a vote on Friday was as follows:

The AFC Championship Game will be played at a neutral site, if participating teams have played an unequal number of games, both could have been ranked No. 1 and all AFC clubs have played a 17-game regular season.

Those scenarios include either Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team. If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or tie this weekend, the Bills-Chiefs AFC title game will be at neutral site.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, the Bills-Chiefs AFC title game will be at neutral site.

If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins, either the Bills or Bengals will be at a neutral site against Kansas City in the AFC title game.

Also, if Baltimore beats Cincinnati in Week 18, the Ravens would have two wins over the Bengals, a divisional foe, but no playoff berth because Cincinnati has a higher winning percentage than Baltimore in the 16-game schedule. For the 17-game schedule.

So, if Baltimore beats Cincinnati and those two clubs are scheduled to play a wild-card game against each other, the site for that game will be determined by a coin toss.

However, if the Bengals win this weekend or Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play each other in the wild card round, the game sites will be determined by regular scheduling procedures.

“As we consider the football schedule, our policies are to limit disruption and minimize competitive imbalances across the league,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I know there is no perfect solution. However, we ask the franchise to consider the most important potential equity issues created by the difficult but necessary decision not to play the game in these extraordinary circumstances.


AP sports writer John Wawro contributed to this report.


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