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NFL outlines potential AFC playoff modifications following Bills-Bengals cancellation

The Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is given to the champions of the American Football Conference during the NFL Playoffs, and the NFL logo AP/Charlie Riedel/Nell Redmond

NFL outlines potential AFC playoff modifications following Bills-Bengals cancellation

Jack Birle

January 05, 11:48 PM January 05, 11:48 PM

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The NFL has outlined the potential modifications to the AFC playoffs after it decided Monday night’s Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals game would not be resumed.

The game, which was suspended after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed halfway through the first quarter, was pivotal to AFC playoff seeding, but with the first round of the playoffs nine days away, the NFL felt there was no time to complete the game. The Bills and Bengals will have only played 16 games at the end of the regular season, compared to the rest of the league playing 17 games, leading to the league’s decision to make special changes.

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“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”

The two outlined elements agreed to by the league’s competition committee call for the AFC championship game to be held at a neutral site in select scenarios, and for the venue of a potential Bengals and Baltimore Ravens wild card playoff game to be determined by a coin flip if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in their game Sunday.

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There are three scenarios that would call for a neutral site AFC championship. The first would be if both the Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs win or tie their games in week 18, and the AFC championship is between the two teams. The second scenario would be if both the Bills and the Chiefs lose in week 18, the Ravens win or tie in week 18, and the AFC championship is between the Bills and the Chiefs. The third scenario would be if both the Bills and the Chiefs lose in week 18, the Bengals win in week 18, and the AFC championship is between either the Bills or Bengals and the Chiefs.

Normally, the only neutral site game in the NFL playoffs is the Super Bowl, which is being held at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona this year. The league has not said where the AFC championship game would be played if it is held at a neutral site.

The plan still needs to be approved by NFL clubs at a special league meeting Friday.

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