Thursday was a day of enormous relief. Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety who has been hospitalized since Monday night after collapsing on the field, awoke, and communicated with doctors via writing.
Hamlin was assessed as being neurologically intact. Sighs of relief washed over the NFL and the myriad people concerned for his well-being.
That update — as well as Hamlin’s father telling the Bills that his son would want them to get back to work — prompted the NFL to move on with deciding how to amend the AFC playoffs.
The first order of business was dealing with the suspended Bengals-Bills matchup. As expected, it was canceled.
Everything else was a bit trickier. The cancellation ensured two teams would finish the year having played 17 games, but with both having clinched playoff spots.
According to the league memo, if either the Bills or Bengals make the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the game would be played at a neutral site.
It’s a bit confusing, but NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero disclosed the full memo and a brief breakdown of the scenarios in play this weekend:
Here’s another breakdown from Field Yates of ESPN, below.
Keep in mind records are currently as follows: Bengals 11-4, Bills 12-3, Chiefs 13-3
What this means is that both the Chiefs and Bills are still in contention for the No. 1 seed (Buffalo needs a KC loss and a win). There will be no additional game, nor will there be an eighth team added to the playoffs, as some rumblings suggested.
Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, adding an eighth playoff team was never under consideration.
As for the Bengals, they have been crowned AFC North Champions, but… if the playoff standings remain intact, they’d be slated, as the No. 3 seed, to play the No. 6-seeded Baltimore Ravens.
If that happens, and the Ravens beat the Bengals this weekend, well, it’s up to a coin toss to decide home field.
While there’s a lot in play, the number of playoff teams remains intact. The only key things that change are the seeding ramifications, the possibility of a coin toss to decide home field, and a possible, if not likely neutral site AFC Championship.