NFL approves AFC playoff changes: Here are the scenarios for the Cincinnati Bengals

An AFC North championship but no home playoff game is now officially possible for the Cincinnati Bengals after the NFL approved a change to the AFC playoffs amid the fallout from Monday night’s cancellation.

>>Neutral site AFC Championship under consideration by NFL if certain scenarios play out

After announcing a proposed plan by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday, teams voted to approve the measure that will allow changes for this season only in the AFC because of the Bengals and Buffalo Bills, playing less games but also being in contention for the top three seeds in the playoff.

>>Damar Hamlin: NFL to hold league-wide show of support in Week 18 for recovering Buffalo Bills player

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the vote passed with 25 owners approving, which is one more than the required 24 needed for approval.

All the changes from this week now result in the Bengals winning the AFC North title, the first time in franchise history they’ve won the division in back-to-back years.

The approved plan first is dependent on the result of this Sunday’s game between the Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, set for 1 p.m. at Paycor Stadium. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, and the results of other games force a Wild Card Game matchup between the teams, the location of the game will not automatically go to the Bengals as the division winner.

>>LATEST: Damar Hamlin breathing on his own, able to talk after on-field collapse

Rather the game’s location will be decided by a coin flip.

If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18, 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.

>>’You won the game of life,’ doctor tells Damar Hamlin, who’s making ‘substantial improvement’

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.

The simple solution for the Bengals and their fans: Win on Sunday.

The approval also calls for changes to the AFC Championship Game including playing the game at a neutral site, as determined by Goodell, if certain scenarios play out.

>>Area high school football coach speaks to concerned parents after Bengals-Bills game

A neutral site will be used in the AFC Championship if these three Week 18 scenarios happen:

  • 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.

The changes have been met with lots of resistance, and controversy, especially by Cincinnati players and coaches.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon tweeted Thursday night a call for the NFL to follow the approved game operations for the 2022 season. The tweet included screenshots of the policy manual and an outline of the plan for cancelled games.

Under the policy, as shared by Mixon, a team’s winning percentage alone, not their overall record, will be considered for playoff seeding if a game was cancelled and a team didn’t play all 17 games in a season.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

If the league followed this rule, the Cincinnati would have needed to win, and a Buffalo loss in Week 18, for both teams to have equal winning percentages, and would then head to tiebreakers.

This means Cincinnati would have had a shot for the second overall seed, and home games in both the Wild Card and Divisional playoff rounds.

During a media availability Friday, Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor echoed Mixon’s tweet and called for the league to follow the rulebook. Taylor said the Bengals were being unfairly punished by losing the opportunity to control their own destiny for the top two seeds in the playoffs.

“Opportunities lost for us that we had a chance to control that now we don’t. But it seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and just negatives for us,” Taylor told reporters, according to our news partners at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed and when a game is cancelled that you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make up the rules. There’s several instances this season where the club is fined or people in our building are fined and we are being told to follow the rules. It’s black and white in the rulebook,” Taylor said, according to multiple reports from NFL reporters Friday.

“So, now, when we point out the rules and you are told we are going to change that, I don’t want to hear about fair and equitable when that is the case.”

“So what this team will do is all we can control is going into a game this weekend and doing our best to win. We are going to channel our energy into that.”