The road to Super Bowl LVII in the AFC will officially go through Arrowhead Stadium. After the Cincinnati Bengals were able to upset the Buffalo Bills in their divisional round matchup on Sunday, the possibility of having an AFC Championship game on a neutral site has been eliminated. Now, the Chiefs will host Cincinnati in what will be a rematch of last season's title game.
Had Buffalo won this game, the Bills and Chiefs would have traveled down to Atlanta to make their bid for a conference title and punch their ticket to Arizona for Super Bowl LVII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This scenario was laid out in the aftermath of the Bills-Bengals game in Week 17 being canceled in the wake of safety Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field and going into cardiac arrest. Instead of resuming that game at a later date, the league decided to simply cancel it altogether.
Because the Bills -- who played one less game than K.C. -- finished just a half-game behind them in the conference standings, that opened the door for the neutral site conference title game had they both made it there. This was due to an amendment voted on by owners in the aftermath of the Hamlin incident to try and level the playing field.
At the time of that Week 17 game, Buffalo and Cincinnati were within range of unseating the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed as they owned the head-to-head tiebreaker. The reason the Bengals were not eligible for the neutral site title game was due to being a full game behind K.C. in the loss column.
The possibility of having that neutral site AFC Championship game did seem to be something that the NFL was interested in, possibly dipping their toe into those waters with this game with an eye to potentially go that route in the future. In fact, the league had already sold 50,000 tickets to that game.
The league making those plans did seem to be the perfect bulletin board material for the Bengals, however. Following the win over Buffalo, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was asked by CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson how much that motivated Cincinnati, and the third-year signal caller responded with the line of the weekend.
"You better send those refunds," said Burrow.
“Domination from start to finish – that’s what we expected.”— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 22, 2023
Joe Burrow joins @TracyWolfson after the @Bengals’ dominant win over Buffalo. pic.twitter.com/DALPkMC7ts
The Bengals will now head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS.