The Cincinnati Bengals will be recognized as the AFC North champions regardless of the outcome of their Sunday game against the Baltimore Ravens, a source told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
The news comes hours after the NFL officially canceled the game between the Bengals and Buffalo Bills. The contest was originally suspended Monday night after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field.
As division winners, Cincy will have a harder schedule next season and potentially a later draft pick. However, the team won’t necessarily have the benefits of being champions in the playoffs and may not have home-field advantage in a wild-card game, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The NFL’s competition committee approved on Thursday a proposal for the playoffs stating that if the Ravens beat the Bengals in Week 18 and the two sides are scheduled to play again in the wild-card round, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. All 32 NFL owners will vote to approve the proposal Friday. It needs at least 24 votes to pass, notes Dan Graziano of ESPN.
Cincinnati would’ve clinched the AFC North with a win over Buffalo on Monday. However, if the Bengals didn’t beat the Bills, Baltimore would’ve had a chance to leapfrog Cincy for the division’s first place with a win in their Week 18 clash. With the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals contest, Cincy will have the higher winning percentage even if Baltimore sweeps their season series on Sunday. Both teams have already clinched a playoff berth.
TEAM RECORD %
Bengals 11-4 .733
Ravens 10-6 .625
The Bengals and Ravens are currently the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds in the AFC, respectively.
Also, if the #Ravens win on Sunday and jump up to the No. 5 seed in the AFC, there won’t be a coin flip if they face the #Bengals in the Divisional or Conference round. Cincinnati would host that game. Coin flip only applies to the Wild Card round if they’re the 3-6 seed matchup.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 6, 2023
Baltimore will finish as the conference’s No. 5 seed with a win over the Bengals and a Los Angeles Chargers loss against the Denver Broncos.
A second proposal approved by the NFL’s competition committee that will be voted by owners Friday would affect the AFC title game.
A summary of the proposal for the AFC Championship Game:
14-3 Chiefs vs. 13-3 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bills: neutral site
13-4 Chiefs vs. 12-4 Bengals: neutral site
Week 18 has no bearing on a possible Bills-Bengals championship game: that would be in Buffalo.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 6, 2023
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