NFL’s Decision for AFC Playoffs Was Fair — but not Right

This has been one helluva week for the NFL.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had to be resuscitated TWICE via CPR and AED during the Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati. Both Bills and Bengals players — and fans — rallied around and led the sports world in prayers for Hamlin. Thankfully, Hamlin is awake and has been in communication with his teammates.


Now came two hard decisions. First, should the NFL postpone or just cancel the game in light over Hamlin’s near-death experience on the field? Of course the NFL decided to cancel.

The second of the hardest decisions: what to do about the AFC playoffs, especially at the top of the standings? The Bills, Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs have been vying for the top seed for the last three weeks.

The Chiefs have the best record, they were beaten by both the Bills and the Bengals and were within a game of each other heading into Monday’s game. Which made the decision to cancel the game even trickier.

So, we all know that the NFL approved a plan that leaves open the possibility of a neutral-site AFC Championship Game and could determine home-field advantage for a wild-card game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens by a coin flip.

Now while some pundits and fans thought that the decision was a fair one, others, namely Bengals players, coaches and fans, vehemently disagreed. Not only did the move killed any possibility of the Bengals getting the top seed in the AFC, the league went against its own rule book.

What are those rules, you ask?

Here is an excerpt from page A78, under the category of “Emergencies and Unfair Acts” and the specific rule entitled “Competitive Policy for Cancelled Games”:

“If a game is cancelled, a team’s standing in its division or in its conference (e.g., qualification as a Wild Card in the playoffs or position in playoff seeding) shall be determined on the basis of its final record. When necessary, playoff tiebreakers shall be calculated according to per game average for all teams.”

There’s nothing about neutral sites or coin flips.

I get why the league decided to conduct the AFC championship on a neutral field. To me, that was the fairest thing to do given the possible outcomes of last Monday’s game.

Determining the site of a possible Bengals-Ravens wildcard matchup via coin flip? Hard pass on that one, especially given the fact the Bengals ALREADY CLINCHED the AFC North division title and should be rewarded with a home wildcard game vs. the Ravens should it come down to that.

Now as much as this Steelers fan agree with the Bengals and their fans, Cincinnati has to do one thing to make this all a moot issue. Beat the Ravens on Sunday.

That bogus coin flip rule would only be enforced if the Ravens upset the Bengals in Cincinnati.

So ‘Who Dey’ Nation, your team has ONE JOB. Let’s see if your Bengals will get it done…

Editor’s note: yes, I know it’s been a while (since November, to be exact) since I last wrote a blog post. I promise to be better — I’m only human, dammit!

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