Cincinnati Bengals ownership pushed fellow NFL team owners to vote "no" to Thursday night's playoff proposal, multiple sources tell CBS Sports.
NFL owners met at noon ET Friday to vote on the proposed postseason changes that would involve a neutral site AFC Championship Game in some scenarios, along with the possibility of a coin flip deciding the location of a potential Bengals-Ravens wild-card round game. The changes were approved.
The coin flip is what the Bengals take greatest issue with, according to sources. The league officially canceled the Bills-Bengals game and ruled it a no-contest. The league has already crowned the Bengals as AFC North champions regardless of the outcome of their Week 18 matchup against the Ravens.
If the 10-6 Ravens beat the 11-4 Bengals on Sunday, a scenario exists where the Ravens are the No. 6 seed and the Bengals are the No. 3 seed. In any other year that seeding should mean the game would be played in Cincinnati. But Baltimore would have won both games in the season series, and since the Bengals didn't play an equal number of games, the league has approved having a coin flip decide where that playoff game would take place.
Katie Blackburn, executive vice president of the Bengals, oversees the day-to-day operations of the team. She was recently appointed to the league's 10-member competition committee, and she voiced her concerns both on a call with committee members Thursday night and in an email to NFL membership later. Sources described the email as "lengthy" and "strong."
According to league sources, Blackburn made the point that the essence of winning a division title is being compromised through no fault of the Bengals. Running back Joe Mixon posted the NFL's policy manual for canceled games on Twitter Thursday night.
The NFL rulebook outlines what happens in the event of a canceled game, and it states that the league would rely on winning percentage to determine playoff seeding. Blackburn voiced that the rules on books should be followed.
Blackburn and the Bengals would need eight other votes for the proposal to be rejected, which they didn't get. Her strongest argument, according to multiple sources, was to appeal to owners about the precedent this sets. While this change is for one postseason only and impacts a maximum of four teams, Blackburn can make the point that changing the rules already on the books a week before the playoffs isn't good for the league overall.
It's still unclear where the AFC Championship Game would take place, should the factors in the proposal necessitate a neutral site. Indianapolis, Detroit and New Orleans would be potential venues, but factors like logistics, hotel availability and fairness would have to be factored in. The league is also mulling an outdoor venue since Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati all play outdoors.