Making the decision before week 18 is in line with our competitive principles and allows all clubs to know their play-off options ahead of the final weekend of the regular season.
The cancellation of the game between the Bills and the Bengals creates potential competitive distortions in certain playoff scenarios. To mitigate these inequalities, NFL clubs will discuss a resolution recommended by the commissioner and approved today by the Competitions Committee at a special league meeting tomorrow, consisting of two elements:
1. The AFC Championship game will be played at a neutral venue if the participating teams have played an unequal number of games and both teams would have been seeded number one and could have played the game if all AFC clubs had a 17-game regular season would have graduated. Under these circumstances, either Buffalo or Cincinnati as the away team qualifies for the game and is listed below:
Buffalo and Kansas City both win or reach a tie – the championship game between Buffalo and Kansas City would be played at a neutral venue.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or reaches a tie – the Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be played at a neutral venue.
Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins—a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs. Kansas City championship game would be played at a neutral venue.
2. If Baltimore beats Cincinnati in week 18, it will have beaten division opponent Cincinnati twice but will not be able to play a playoff game because Cincinnati has a higher win percentage on a 16-game schedule than Baltimore on a 17-game schedule.
If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and those two clubs play a wild card game against each other, the venue for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game, or if Baltimore and Cincinnati do not face off in the wild card round, the venues will be determined using the regular process.
„When we reconsidered the game plan, our principles were to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive distortions.”, Goodell said. “I am aware that there is no perfect solution. However, the proposal we are submitting to owners for consideration addresses the key potential equity issues raised by the difficult but necessary decision not to play the game in these exceptional circumstances.”