The postponed Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game will not be resumed and has been canceled, the NFL announced Thursday evening.
The game was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after making a tackle on Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin had to be resuscitated on the field and remains in the hospital, where his status has improved since receiving 100 percent of oxygen from a ventilator.
“This has been a very difficult week,” NFL Commissioner Roger 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. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
The NFL said that resuming the game would have resulted in postponing the playoffs, which would affect all 14 teams to qualify. The game also has no bearing on playoff qualification — only potential seeding.
The league also said that “making the decision prior to Week 18 is consistent with our competitive principles and enables all clubs to know the playoff possibilities prior to playing the final weekend of regular season games.”
With the announcement of the game’s cancellation, the league stated that all clubs will hold a special meeting Friday regarding the possibility of a neutral site AFC Championship Game. If Buffalo or Cincinnati were on the road against team that played 17 games, the NFL announced the following circumstances:
Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie – a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties – a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins – a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.
However, if the Baltimore Ravens beat the Bengals this weekend, it will have defeated Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, twice but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule. This means that the Bengals have clinched the AFC North.
But according to the NFL, “if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are scheduled to play a Wild Card game against one another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.”
“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Goodell said. “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 Bills will clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win and a Kansas City Chiefs loss to the Las Vegas Raiders – Buffalo would be 13-3, while Kansas City would be 13-4, so the Chiefs’ winning percentage would be a tick lower.
Hamlin has responded to doctors’ orders and even asked doctors via writing who won Monday night’s game.