The AFC playoffs are going to have a slightly different look this year and that's because the NFL's 32 owners have voted to make two major modifications to the postseason.
After making the decision on Thursday night to cancel the Bills-Bengals game, the NFL also offered two proposals for changing the AFC playoffs and those proposals were officially voted through on Friday.
Under the first proposal that was voted through, the AFC Championship will now be played at a neutral-site game if any of the three following scenarios are met:
- Scenario 1: If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie in Week 18, then a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
- Scenario 2: If the Bills and Chiefs both lose in Week 18 and Baltimore wins or ties with the Bengals, then a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
- Scenario 3: If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati beats Baltimore, then a Bills or Bengals vs. Chiefs championship game would be at a neutral site.
If necessary, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will determine the site of the game.
The NFL is also giving the Ravens a chance to possibly host a wild card game even though Baltimore will be finishing in second place in the AFC North no matter what happens on Sunday against the Bengals. Even if the Ravens win, that would put them at 11-6, which would still be a half game behind Cincinnati, which would finish 11-5 with a loss.
Under that scenario, the Ravens wouldn't win the division even though they swept the Bengals AND had a better division record. To fix that problem, the owners have approved a proposal that will call for a coin flip to determine the host of a potential Bengals-Ravens wild card game. The coin flip would only happen if both scenarios below are met:
1. The Ravens beat the Bengals on Sunday, and ...
2. The two teams are scheduled to play each other in the wild card round.
With the two proposals now approved, that means the Bengals might not host a wild card game even though they won the AFC North. Not surprisingly, the Bengals were the one team that was vehemently against the two proposals. Katie Blackburn, executive vice president of the Bengals, even sent out a memo trying to get teams to vote against the proposals, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones reported Friday.
According to multiple reports, 25 owners voted yes -- 24 votes were needed.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, Goodell knew that not every team would be happy with the solution that the NFL eventually came up with.
"As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities," Goodell said of why the league came up with these two proposals. "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 circumstances Goodell is referring to is the situation involving Damar Hamlin. The Bills and Bengals played for nearly nine minutes on Monday night before the game was stopped after the Bills safety went into cardiac arrest on the field. After being given CPR, Hamlin was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical center, where he's been listed in critical condition for the past three days.
Although things looked dire when he was taken to the hospital on Monday, Hamlin has improved remarkably over the past 24 hours with the Bills announcing on Friday that he's no longer on a breathing tube and that he even FaceTime'd some of his Bills teammates.
"This has been a very difficult week," Goodell said in a statement. "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."
With Hamlin's health improving, the NFL finally sat down to figure out how to fix the AFC playoffs and the proposals above are the two solutions they came up with.