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Bills-Bengals game, NFL owners approve one-time playoff seeding changes

What will happen to the suspended Bills-Bengals game is still to be determined.

A Buffalo Bills helmet sits on the field during a stop in play during the game against the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Update Friday, January 6 1:26 p.m. — The league owners approved the changes proposed for the 2023 NFL Playoffs.

Update 9:18 p.m. — The league has officially canceled the Bills-Bengals game. The owners will now meet on Friday to vote on how to adjust the playoff rules due to Buffalo and Cincinnati playing one fewer game. There are two scenarios to be voted on:

1. The AFC Championship Game will be played at a neutral site if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the No. 1 seed and hosted the game. There are three scenarios potentially implicated here:

  • Bills and Chiefs both win or tie in Week 18 — A Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site
  • Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Ravens win or tie in Week 18 — A Bills-Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site
  • Bills and Chiefs both lose and the Bengals win in Week 18 — A Bills or Bengals vs. Chiefs AFC title game would be at a neutral site

2. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, and if those two teams would play in the Wild Card round, the site of the game would be determined by a coin toss. If the Bengals win the game or if the two teams are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.

Update 8:08 p.m. It looks like it might take more than just the competition committee to make this decision on seeding. The owners themselves might get together to make the decision.

The NFL has decided to not replay the Week 17 Monday Night Football game between the Bills and Bengals, per Seung Min Kim. The game was suspended after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a medical emergency on the field and needed to be resuscitated on the field by Medical personnel. Reports on Hamlin’s health have been positive, but he remains in critical condition.

We are still waiting for any moves the NFL will make to try to make this move as fair as possible, but for now we know that the Bills-Bengals game will not count.

With the game not being played, the Bengals and Bills will have one fewer game than the rest of the league, which will impact the AFC North standings and playoff seeding. The biggest change is that now the Bills don’t control whether they get the No. 1 seed. The Chiefs will now be the No. 1 seed if they beat the Raiders on Saturday. A Chiefs win would put the Bills in the No. 2 seed if they beat the Patriots and possibly put them in the No. 3 seed if they lose to the Patriots and the Bengals beat the Ravens.

Unfortunately, the tie-breakers for that possibility rely on strength of victory numbers that won’t be known until the Week 18 games are played.

Chiefs clinch a first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

1) KC win
OR 2) KC tie + BUF tie
OR 3)BUF loss

BUF clinches a first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

1) BUF win + KC loss/tie
OR 2) BUF tie + KC loss

The AFC North has now been won by the Cincinnati Bengals. Even if the Ravens beat them this weekend, Baltimore won’t be able to garner a high enoughwinning percentage. The Ravens could still get the No. 5 seed with a win over the Bengals and loss by the Chargers, while the Bengals have a chance at the No. 2 seed with a win and a Patriots win over the Bills.