NFL says neutral site AFC Championship game is possible, Bills-Bengals Week 17 game won't be resumed

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Buffalo Bills vs Cincinnati Bengals, Week 17, January 2, 2023 at Paycor Stadium

The NFL announced Thursday night that the Week 17 Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed and has been cancelled. The game will not affect the win-loss record of either Buffalo or Cincinnati and will be a no contest.

Further, NFL clubs will consider Friday in a Special League Meeting the possibility of the AFC Championship game being played at a neutral site. The resolution has been recommended by the Commissioner and approved Thursday by the Competition Committee.

More info on potential neutral site AFC Championship Game

The potential neutral site game would only come into play IF the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the number one seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season. Those circumstances involve Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team and are listed below:

Scenario 1

Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie – a Buffalo vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.

Scenario 2

Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties – a Buffalo vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.

Scenario 3

  • Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins – a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
  • If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18 it will have defeated Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, twice but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule.

If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are schedule to play a Wild Card game against one another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.

Decision on Bills-Bengals cancellation

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement on what went into the decision to not resume the Bills-Bengals game.

"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."

Among the key factors in arriving at this decision:

  • Not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game to its conclusion will have no effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the postseason and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game.
  • It would require postponing the start of the playoffs for one week, thereby affecting all 14 clubs that qualify for postseason play.
  • Making the decision prior to Week 18 is consistent with our competitive principles and enables all clubs to know the playoff possibilities prior to playing the final weekend of regular season games.
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