NFL owners voted Friday to approve a resolution modifying this year’s playoff format in light of the cancellation of Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The modifications make it possible for the AFC Championship Game to be held at a neutral site and potentially call for a coin flip to determine who gets home field in the event of a wild-card game between the Baltimore Ravens and Bengals.
The AFC title game will be played at a neutral site selected by the NFL if the two teams played a different number of regular-season games and if the lower-seeded team in the game could have been the No. 1 seed if a full schedule had been played.
A coin toss will only determine home-field advantage between the Ravens and Bengals if the two teams are scheduled to meet in the wild-card round and Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor expressed his displeasure with the playoff resolution earlier Friday. Although Cincinnati clinched the AFC North title, it may not get to host a wild-card game.
“We had control and now we don’t. There are positives for a lot of teams and negatives for us,” Taylor said.
Rich McKay, the NFL competition committee’s chairman, stressed flexibility when asked why the league didn’t just stick with winning percentage as the deciding factor in a possible Ravens-Bengals wild-card meeting.
“I would say it’s not necessarily (rules) weren’t followed,” McKay said, according to Pelissero. He added, “We don’t capture everything in every rule and every policy manual. Sometimes when you face situations, you have to try to make adjustments.”
McKay noted that the possibility of a neutral site for a wild-card game between the AFC North rivals was discussed on Friday’s call, but “the response back to that was, not enough time” for the necessary logistical adjustments.
Monday night’s game between the Bengals and Bills was suspended after Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field in the first quarter. The NFL announced Thursday it will not resume the contest at any point.
Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field before he was taken by ambulance to University of Cincinnati Medical Center in critical condition. Hamlin’s agent said Friday that the defensive back had his breathing tube removed and was breathing on his own. He also joined a Bills team meeting Friday via video to talk to his teammates.
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