Thursday brought incredible news regarding the health of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. According to the team, Hamlin has shown “remarkable improvement” over the past 24 hours, and according to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the safety “appears to be neurologically intact.” Furthermore, Hamlin has reacted to people around him, and has been gripping the hands of those in the room with him.
Hamlin’s health, and his continued recovery, remains the main focus for the entire sports world. However, the NFL now faces the prospect of moving ahead with Week 18, the NFL playoffs, and how to handle the game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. As noted prior to that game, the meeting between the two AFC powers had huge playoff implications, both for the AFC North division title, and the top seed in the AFC.
However, according to reporting from the Associated Press, the league has decided not to resume the game between the Bengals and the Bills:
NEW YORK (AP) — AP sources: NFL won't resume Bills-Bengals game suspended Monday night after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest.— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 5, 2023
This was mentioned as a possibility earlier in the day, raised by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. According to Schefter’s earlier reporting, the league is considering a few different options. One option, which was proposed by ESPN’s Matt Hasselbeck and is being considered by the league is to call the game between the Bengals and the Bills a tie. Then, the league would see how the Week 18 games unfold, and give the team that emerges with the top seed in the AFC a choice between either having a bye, or having homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In this scenario, the team that places second in the AFC will receive the other option, either the bye week or homefield advantage.
Another scenario being considered by the league, according to Schefter, is to hold the AFC Championship game at a neutral site should the AFC Championship game involve Buffalo, Cincinnati, or the Kansas City Chiefs. In this scenario, the game between the Bills and the Bengals will be termed a “no contest” by the league.
Adam Schefter believes the NFL will not look to resume the Bengals vs. Bill game and that league is working towards either a potential neutral site AFC Championship game or 1 seed choosing between getting having a bye or home field with 2 seed getting whatever not picked. pic.twitter.com/MKnRLcRGNQ— The Comeback (@thecomeback) January 5, 2023
These are just two of the many scenarios floating around the league right now. Another scenario involves calling the game between Buffalo and Cincinnati a “no contest” and determining homefield advantage by winning percentage, rather than record.
At the moment, it is unclear whether the game will be deemed a tie, or deemed a “no contest.”
Another plan circulated in league circles involved potentially resuming the game between the Bengals and Bills, but doing so in a newly-created Week 19. This would involve eliminating the Super Bowl bye week, and staggering the NFC and AFC Wild Card games:
.@ProFootballTalk says on @937theFan he got wind from high level NFL people that the following NFL schedule could happen:— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) January 4, 2023
NFC wild card playoffs
AFC playoff bye week
AFC wild card playoffs
NFC playoff bye week
However, it does seem that the league is trending towards an option that involves declaring the game a “no contest:”
I’m expecting an an announcement this afternoon that Bills-Bengals will be declared a “no contest.”— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 5, 2023
Again, the main focus remains the health and recovery of Hamlin. As noted by Schefter in the above clip, his progress, and the optimism from doctors, is a tremendous development and one that is welcomed from around the sports world.