NFL Begins Discussion On What To Do About Postponed Bills-Bengals Game; Playoff Delay Is Possible

CINCINNATI — The NFL just announced its Week 18 schedule and the Buffalo Bills will host the New England Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m even as the shadow of the Damar Hamlin cardiac arrest episode casts a shadow over the team.

But while that game is set in stone, the NFL is still trying to figure out what to do about the postponed game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals from Monday night. That game was postponed after Hamlin collapsed, a traumatic experience for everyone on the teams that witnessed it.

All options seem to be on the table for discussion about getting the game played.

NFL Considering Options On Bills-Bengals

"That conversation about what we do with that game has begun," NFL executive vice president for communications and public affairs and policy Jeff Miller said Wednesday.

Miller said the conversation includes commissioner Roger Goodell, executive vice president for football operations Troy Vincent, himself, the teams involved, and others.

"Obviously we're going to have to make a decision on that in the coming days, which we will," Miller said. "But there's a lot of considerations in place there and a lot of people that we want to consult with including the clubs involved before that decision is final.

"We're working hard on that now."

One option: The NFL can schedule the game, which has playoff implications, after the regular season ends. So the league might extend the regular season by one week in which only one game will be played.

That would force the start of the playoffs, currently scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 12-17 with wild-card games, to be moved back a week.

The league could move wild-card weekend, the divisional round games, and the conference championship games all back one week and still keep the Super Bowl on its scheduled Feb. 12 kickoff date. That would be accomplished by not having the currently scheduled bye week prior to the Super Bowl.

So the conference title games would be followed one week later by the Super Bowl rather than two weeks later.

The NFL could also decide to not play the postponed game at all.

That would cause some issues that would need to be overcome because both the Bills and the Bengals are chasing the Kansas City Chiefs for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. That potential home field advantage throughout the playoffs is the reason Monday night's game was so vital.

"I just literally this morning began diving into that," Vincent said. "And all those things you just raised regarding the seeding took us back to the principles that guided us through the 2020 season. From you play all 272 , if you're not playing them all, how does that change? All of those things are being factored in. So everything is being considered.

"And I hope to dive into that full steam ahead at the conclusion of this call. We have to dedicate time in that particular area but all those things we just referenced -- those guiding principles that got us through the 2020 season with COVID -- all those things will guide us through this conversation."

Vincent said the NFL wants to make sure there's equity for the Bills and Bengals and also the Chiefs as they make a decision. But that simply might not be possible.

"Potentially there may be a lack of equity where it may not be perfect," Vincent said. "But it will allow those that are participating or earned that right to play to continue to play."

Winning Percentage May Not Work For Bills, Bengals

It's possible the NFL could go by winning percentage. But what if the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens this weekend to finish 12-4 and the Bills lose against the Patriots to finish 12-4?

Which gets the home field advantage should they meet in the playoffs?

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow seemed to defer all this decision-making to someone else. Even the Bills.

"I don't know when a decision on that game will be made," Burrow said. "If it'll be made after the games on Sunday or made before Sunday ... I think that would be tough scheduling-wise. But I think whatever Buffalo would want to do would be what we would want to do as well. We're behind them 100 percent and support them in whatever they want to do going forward."

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