Equity issues regarding possible Bills-Bengals playoff game got lost in the cracks

Buffalo Bills v Cincinnati Bengals
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In the aftermath of the serious events that prompted the postponement and eventual cancellation of the Week 17 game between the Bills and Bengals, the NFL decided to change its existing rules to account for home-field advantage in the AFC Championship round and the AFC wild-card round.

What happened to the divisional round?

The league office, getting only one more vote than the minimum needed to alter the rules, finagled a neutral site under specific circumstances for the AFC title game, along with a bizarre coin flip for determining home-field advantage for a wild-card game between the Bengals and Ravens, if the Ravens had completed a regular-season sweep of the AFC North champions in Week 18 (they didn’t). Setting aside the issues raised by ignoring the rule on the books (i.e., if a game is canceled, winning percentage controls) and by undertaking an incomplete effort to ensure full fairness (e.g., the Chiefs still got a week off and a guaranteed spot in the divisional round when perhaps they didn’t “deserve” it), the league’s effort to clumsily cobble together a unique solution overlooked one major aspect of the broader fairness analysis.

If the Bills beat the Dolphins and if the Bengals beat the Ravens on Sunday, the Bills — as the higher seed — will host the Bengals in the divisional round. Without a neutral site or a coin flip or anything else to account for the simple fact that the Bengals were beating the Bills when the game was postponed.

Even if the Bills had been leading at the time, the Bengals could have won the game. Which would have made them (coupled with their Week 18 victory over the Ravens) the No. 2 seed.

Instead, the Bills secured the second seed and home-field advantage for the potential playoff game between the two teams. Without any allowance for the fact that the Bengals lost their chance to be the No. 2 seed.

So, yes, the Bengals are upset. At every turn, they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. In a roundabout way, it has given them an edge that could come in handy when it’s time to go to Buffalo, and possibly back to Kansas City, in Cincinnati’s attempt to follow their most recent Super Bowl appearance with another one.

57 responses to “Equity issues regarding possible Bills-Bengals playoff game got lost in the cracks

  1. Hmm, seems kind of like someone has their thumb on the scale. Let’s see how many calls go the Bills way during the game to ensure victory. Not saying it’s rigged, but remember how many chances the Rams got to score on that last drive…

  2. I don’t know how this could have been “lost in the cracks” when the Bengals and their fans consistently brought it up and were told to quit whining by those who received favored treatment.

  3. It didn’t get lost in the cracks. It was one of the main reasons the fans knew the coin toss with bmore was bs; we didn’t get the same opportunity of a coin toss against the bills! Katie Blackburn and Zac Taylor brought it up constantly.

  4. “At every turn, they’ve gotten the short end of the stick.” Except for the fact that they won the division by default due to the game being canceled. Just going to gloss over that?

    Yes, they lost their shot at the 2 seed, which they would have had to beat the Bills to get. They would have had no shot at the 1 seed. The coin flip would have only happened if they lost, again, to the Ravens. They were the 3 going into week 17, had the 3rd best record in the conference, and finished with the 3rd seed. Big deal.

    Meanwhile, the Bills lost their shot at the 1 seed, which they were in possession of going into week 17 and controlled their own destiny toward. They got the “short end of the stick” there.

    The Chiefs got the 1 seed but lost home field advantage in the AFC championship. So they got the “short end of the stick” in that regard.

    It was a compromise for 3 teams impacted by a freak incident. All 3 teams benefitted in their own way, and each “got the short end of the stick” in their own way. The Bengals are just the only team still whining about it.

  5. They got screwed royally. If you are going to give Buffalo credit for something from the MNF game (a neutral site for possible AFC Championship Game with KC), what did the Bengals get? I guess a TD celebration that brought a fine. I’m sure that evens things up.

  6. Further evidence that the league was acting on emotion over reason.

    Emotion has a place, but we can see how messy it was in this case.

  7. You lost me at “Bengals were beating the Bills.” Seriously? The Bengals have a gripe but leading 7-3 after half a quarter of a cancelled game isn’t one of them.

  8. It’s not lost by Buffalo, Cinci or KC fans. They’re the ones getting hosed by the league’s decision.

  9. Yeah, the Bengals got the short end of the stick, and they have a right to be unhappy about what happened. With that said, it was a literally an extraordinary circumstance that was a matter of life or death. What if the latter happened? Would we be discussing this? Not even an exaggeration, the guy did not have a heart beat for 10 minutes, it was dire.

    I am very critical of the NFL, but credit where credit is due. They had the right tools in place to save the person’s life. The players, medical personnel, team doctors, coaches, stadium staff, EVERYONE, acted heroically and pulled off a literal miracle. Congratulations to the league office and the player’s union, for making sure an NFL field is probably THE place on the planet to have a cardiac arrest, besides a hospital.

    All this said….Yes, this should be a learning experience for the NFL. The playoff seeding thing is an issue because it happened so late in the season. Had it been at another point, the game would have been rescheduled for an appropriate time. Maybe they can get some heads together and figure out how to make this fair for everyone (strictly in the sporting sense of it), should it happen again.

  10. Love to hear the explanation from Troy Vincent. Additionally Bengals ended year with 7 home games and 9 on the road. Was that fair NFL?

  11. Good on you, Florio. I’m glad someone outside of the Bengals organization can see the screw job the NFL put on Cincinnati. It’s a lesson to all those who dare to defy the Shield by doing the right thing.

  12. I’ve been waiting for this article. The Bills/Bengals game effectively never happened. Given this and the fact that the Bills had a better record over 16 games, they get home field advantage. Case closed. The Bengals can prove their case if they end up facing each other. I wish the NFL had simply followed the rules on the books. Yes the Bills would then potentially have to go to KC for the championship game but that’s how it goes. It’s life, you move on and play with the hand your dealt. On this case the owners voted to change the rules. I don’t agree with it, but it is what it is.

  13. This has been my biggest issue with how they handled it. Appreciate someone finally saying something about this point. First I’ve heard anyone say anything about it.

  14. Well when two people almost die on your field in one year maybe you should have a medical golf cart for injury’s. The visitors have gotten the short end all year

  15. It didn`t “fall thru the cracks”. Katie Blackburn was on the competition committee so it was brought to their attention. They just stuck it to the Bengals. Whether it`s because they blamed them for not forcing the Bills to forfeit that game or because Mike Brown votes for what he thinks is right instead of joining the “gather votes for favors” club that Goodell has put together i don`t know but i know it was brought up. Like i said before….The way the NFL does business i`m surprised they don`t seed teams by the owners net worth. They are just plain corrupt!

  16. Bills are nothing more than a bunch of whiners. They cried last year after loosing to the Chiefs in the playoffs because they didn’t get ball back once the Chiefs scored. Bingo: rule change
    Now they won’t finish a game they were LOOSING! Bingo: The league changes the playoffs to help them. Bengals got screwed

  17. They should be mad. The rule adjustment favors the Bills & Chiefs and basically labels the bengals as the red headed step child. The bengals were marching when Hamlin went down, pretty sure it was 7-3 with the bengals driving past midfield. Can’t really say the bengals would’ve won that game because there was plenty of time but the NFL’s decision here is essentially an L on the bengals schedule for that game

  18. pbdisciple says:
    January 13, 2023 at 10:17 am
    They got screwed royally. If you are going to give Buffalo credit for something from the MNF game (a neutral site for possible AFC Championship Game with KC), what did the Bengals get? I guess a TD celebration that brought a fine. I’m sure that evens things up.

    ——————-

    They literally won their division the second the game was canceled haha

  19. Game should have been played. Now with hindsight, Hamlin recovering from a heart attack, not an injury, it should have continued or played the next day. Buffalo players said they would not continue. Cincinnati then agreed, as a good sport, and now get the shaft.

  20. What got lost in the cracks was the perceived competency of league officials. How the hell was there nothing in place for a game being cancelled due to unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances. And how the hell does a room of supposedly intelligent people put their heads together and collectively go “Yeah, a coin flip! That will do just fine!”

  21. That game was probably going to end up in the 30’s as far as the score. We have no idea who would have won.

    Time to move on. These were extraordinary circumstances, and the league made their decisions on how best to move forward. Cincinnati, Buffalo & all of the other AFC playoff teams will all have their chance to win & advance.

  22. 3 of the 4 teams in the conference championship last year won on the road to get there. Tampa won on the road 4 times in 2020. Examples go on and on.

    Home field is nice, but it doesnt really matter in the playoffs once kickoff hits. Put up, or shut up.

    You know who put up last year, on the road? The Bengals. They are more than capable of doing it again.

  23. You lost me at “Bengals were beating the Bills.” Seriously? The Bengals have a gripe but leading 7-3 after half a quarter of a cancelled game isn’t one of them.
    —————————————————————————————————————-

    Who was winning with 5 minutes left in the first quarter is irrelevant. Either team could have won the game. It’s the fact that there was zero consideration given to the very real possibility the Bengals could have won the game, and in the process taken the No. 2 seed from the Bills. There should at least be a coin flip to determine where that divisional round game will be played if the matchup happens.

  24. This should be a way bigger story than it is. They had specific rules in place to cover the situation but within a couple days had thrown together a totally different plan that was inferior and far more confusing and totally unfavorable to the Bengals in particular. No explanation given; they just did it. Basically the equivalent of in the middle of a game deciding one team could have 5 downs on an important drive.

  25. They had a rule already in place and should have stayed with that. It’s almost never good when rules are changed in response to an emotionally-charged event.

  26. Pretty sure everyone remembers from years past that 13-3 is clear cut better than 12-4. Unprecedented situation of KC/BUF separated by half a game with an uneven schedule? They split the difference on home field. Unprecedented situation of CIN/BAL being separated by half a game with an uneven schedule? They setup a solution to split the difference on home field. BUF/CIN are separated by a full game with an even number of games played, and while you reference equity in the title I’m not sure you fully grasp the concept. It’s an either or between the Bengals losing the possible benefit of the 2 seed with how things played out VS the Bills losing both the potential benefits of the 1 seed AND 2 seed with a neutral site – how is that a more equitable solution? Don’t forget that the Bills already lost their equity in a first round bye, which is certainly worth more than the 3 points of equity at stake in a BUF/CIN game being played in Buffalo or a neutral location. With how it played out, KC gets the Buffalo’s equity in a 1st round bye, the Bills lose their equity in the 1st round bye and gain the Cincinnati’s equity in 3 points of home field advantage, and the Bengals lose their equity in 3 points of home field advantage – are you really arguing the more equitable situation is for a Bills team with a better record in the same number of games played to take the sole burden in dividing the equity?

  27. My concern isn’t even so much that the Bengals got the short end of the stick. My concern is that the NFL has been driving this Chiefs Bills and Mahomes Allen narrative down our throats and they’re going to do anything they can to get that matchup. Furthermore, the Bengals are the reason that game was cancelled and have called the NFL publicly about it. If the refs treat the games fairly, I have no concern. The Bengals are the best team in the AFC. I just have a hard time believing the NFL will actually allow any Bengals game to get called fairly at this point bc the NFL has become WWE.

  28. NFL chose a knee jerk response to an emotional incident and in two weeks Bengals will have to play at Bills because of it. Great job NFL!

  29. Home field is nice, but it doesnt really matter in the playoffs once kickoff hits. Put up, or shut up.
    —————

    I agree it doesn’t matter to the outcome however what’s also getting lost in the shuffle is the amount of money the cities could lose. Taxpayers build stadiums because they expect a return on their investment, it’s working out for Cincy now but it it’s a KC/Buf championship ATL will reap millions, if not billions, of dollars that rightfully should go to one of those cities. I’m surprised we are not hearing more from the mayors.

  30. Bengals are gonna handily defeat the Bills or anyone else in their way. They’re not scared of Buffalo and could care less where they play them

  31. The game was forfeited by Buffalo. And that’s the way it should have been counted. None of the rest of these changes should have been voted in. Obviously a terrible thing what happened on the field, but it’s still a forfeit. What’s going to happen next time there’s a terrible injury on the field? Will they change the rules then? How bad does the injury have to be before they change the rules? Who decides that?

  32. If something like this ever happens again, the other team will say that while they feel bad for the injured player, they do not agree to cancel game and force the team with the injured player to either play or forfeit. They’ll look like the bad guy, but I wouldn’t blame them at all.

  33. keithmillardloveshardees says:
    January 13, 2023 at 10:49 am

    What got lost in the cracks was the perceived competency of league officials. How the hell was there nothing in place for a game being cancelled due to unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances. And how the hell does a room of supposedly intelligent people put their heads together and collectively go “Yeah, a coin flip! That will do just fine!”
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————-
    I don`t think most fans have perceived the league officials to be competent in several years.
    There WAS something in place. Something that they agreed on when no one was being effected and they could think about fairness to all 32 equally. Then something happened…. and a few owners realized that they were effected so it stopped being about fairness and started being about ME ME ME! And then Goodell starts collecting votes for favors and changes rules TWO days before a game!
    Their either inept or corrupt but probably both.

  34. It is really time to end the narrative that the NFL somehow “rigs” games.

    Stars get star treatment, as they do in every sport. Beyond that, there is no edict EVER coming down from the NFL offices to the referees to call this or that game in a certain team’s favor. That’s actually preposterous.

    There is zero chance something like that could go on for years without it getting leaked. Zero.

  35. It wasn’t lost in the cracks. It was mentioned before. Buffalo gets home advantage over Cincinnati, probably on win percentage. Bengals get screwed. If it turns out KC vs Bills in the championship, the chiefs aren’t afforded the same home field luxury with their higher win percentage. Chiefs get screwed. Buffalo of course thinks it’s perfect. The league is apparently fine with it since Buffalo has become the chosen darlings. And what led to this? Buffalo essentially forfeiting a game they were down 7-3. Playoff OT rules were changed this year because of Buffalo last year. And somehow people outside Buffalo aren’t connecting the dots yet what’s going on?

  36. mogogo1 says:
    January 13, 2023 at 11:01 am
    This should be a way bigger story than it is. They had specific rules in place to cover the situation but within a couple days had thrown together a totally different plan that was inferior and far more confusing and totally unfavorable to the Bengals in particular. No explanation given; they just did it. Basically the equivalent of in the middle of a game deciding one team could have 5 downs on an important drive.

    ———-

    So true, if they’d kept the rule they had in place, the standings would have finished

    1. KC
    2. Buffalo
    3. Cincinnati

    But with this silly rule change that totally screwed the Bengals, we got

    1. KC
    2. Buffalo
    3. Cincinnati

    Just totally unfair to the Bengals, can’t believe how screwed they got, wow.

  37. The Bengals will win this years Superbowl despite all of this crap. Next year they will be #5 in all the power rankings again with “this Bengal team may be for real” after beating all the media darling teams. Good for you Mike on exposing this to the rest if the country who werent paying attention. This Bengal team is so much better than anyone gives them the credit for. They had the toughest secobd half schedule in football is all we heard. 8 up and 8 down. Wouldve been 9 but Bills game was cancelled. But they know, as the Chiefs know, that they cant beat this team with the money on the line.

  38. I would have understood a Bills forfeit except the bengals wanted to suspend play as much as the bills. Can’t force a bills forfeit if you want to cancel the game too.

  39. Reno Hightower says:
    January 13, 2023 at 11:55 am
    The Bengals will win this years Superbowl despite all of this crap. Next year they will be #5 in all the power rankings again with “this Bengal team may be for real” after beating all the media darling teams. Good for you Mike on exposing this to the rest if the country who werent paying attention. This Bengal team is so much better than anyone gives them the credit for. They had the toughest secobd half schedule in football is all we heard. 8 up and 8 down. Wouldve been 9 but Bills game was cancelled. But they know, as the Chiefs know, that they cant beat this team with the money on the line.

    ——

    They still have to beat the refs vs the bills. Unfortunately it won’t happen.

  40. briank says:
    January 13, 2023 at 11:16 am…..

    Good points. I’ve been saying any Bills/Bengals game should be played on a neutral field, but you’re right…do that and what are the Bills getting out of any of this? They would lose all their seed advantage when they were in line to be the one seed and controlled their own destiny. People talk like it was a forgone conclusion that they would have lost to the Bengals because they were down 4 points 10 minutes into the game. Or they talk like they should take the punishment because it was their player…as if it’s their fault dude died on the field before being brought back to life.

    Are the Bengals getting screwed? For sure maybe. Are the Bills getting screwed? For sure maybe. Are the Chiefs getting screwed…maybe not at all and only a little if they are. And the Ravens maybe got a little screwed, too. With no shot of winning the division and only the right to a coin toss if they won, seems they opted to rest players that final game.

  41. This is the exact outcome you asked for when you chastised the league for not following the rules as they were already written.

  42. There is zero chance this would have been the decision if the Steelers were in the position instead of the Bengals.

  43. Noted in the comments already and should be restated.

    AFC’s 1/2/3 seeds are EXACTLY THE SAME as if winning percentages alone were followed.

    Cincy is who we thought they were. #3. Hope to see you in Buffalo.

  44. always found it odd the Bills hopped on a plane and got out of town asap after the game. It’s like they knew if they left there was no shot the game would be finished (hence #2 seed locked up)

  45. doctorrumack says:
    January 13, 2023 at 11:26 am
    Home field is nice, but it doesnt really matter in the playoffs once kickoff hits. Put up, or shut up.
    —————

    I agree it doesn’t matter to the outcome however what’s also getting lost in the shuffle is the amount of money the cities could lose. Taxpayers build stadiums because they expect a return on their investment, it’s working out for Cincy now but it it’s a KC/Buf championship ATL will reap millions, if not billions, of dollars that rightfully should go to one of those cities. I’m surprised we are not hearing more from the mayors.
    _________________________
    The Bills are getting a record amount of public funding for a new stadium. If any Buffalo public officials complain about one lost playoff game someone better remind them of that.

    Enough is enough already with Bengal fans conspiracy theories. The Bills are not a favored franchise. Just like the Bengals they are a declining, small market team who never won a superbowl. It also seems that most Bengals fans calling for following the rules dont realize that following the rules would have netted the exact same results for them as what occurred.

    KC is the favored son. Mahomes will once again not have to play a true road game. Buffalo and Cinci are just two teams that stand in the NFLs way of getting KC back to the superbowl.

  46. Noted in the comments already and should be restated.

    AFC’s 1/2/3 seeds are EXACTLY THE SAME as if winning percentages alone were followed.

    Cincy is who we thought they were. #3. Hope to see you in Buffalo.

    ———

    some people are missing the point of the article. It’s not the seeding it’s that if there’s a coin flip for the AFC championship there should also be one for the divisional round if the Bengals play the Bills.

  47. some people are missing the point of the article. It’s not the seeding it’s that if there’s a coin flip for the AFC championship there should also be one for the divisional round if the Bengals play the Bills.

    ——

    And let’s say the Bills had won that game. Now they lost the bye week and home field for two games. Is that fair?

    IMO, the biggest loss is the 1 seed schedule. Now the Bills play both KC and CIN instead of the winner of those two had they kept the 1 seed. I don’t care who you are of the 3…you play each other 5 times, none of them are going 5/5…and very likely not 3/3 either. Having to beat both is a tall order! I just hope the SB rep in the winner of the Bills/Bengals, assuming they have to play KC in the AFCCG…because that team will have truly earned it having taken down both the other two.

  48. touchbutt6 says:
    January 13, 2023 at 10:14 am

    “At every turn, they’ve gotten the short end of the stick.” Except for the fact that they won the division by default due to the game being canceled. Just going to gloss over that?
    ____________

    So what? They played the Ravens the next week and beat them. They earned the division title. Notice how nobody’s saying the Ravens got screwed?

  49. All I hear is Bungles Fans constantly whining about something. Maybe it’s because they don’t know how to handle the new found success. Do us all a favor and act like you’ve been there before. Event though we all know you haven’t.

  50. I agree it doesn’t matter to the outcome however what’s also getting lost in the shuffle is the amount of money the cities could lose. Taxpayers build stadiums because they expect a return on their investment, it’s working out for Cincy now but it it’s a KC/Buf championship ATL will reap millions, if not billions, of dollars that rightfully should go to one of those cities. I’m surprised we are not hearing more from the mayors.
    _________________________
    The Bills are getting a record amount of public funding for a new stadium. If any Buffalo public officials complain about one lost playoff game someone better remind them of that.

    ————————-

    huh? That’s my point, they are receiving PUBLIC money from the CITY so the CITY should be complaining.

  51. No Dice says:
    January 13, 2023 at 2:14 pm
    some people are missing the point of the article. It’s not the seeding it’s that if there’s a coin flip for the AFC championship there should also be one for the divisional round if the Bengals play the Bills.

    ——

    And let’s say the Bills had won that game. Now they lost the bye week and home field for two games. Is that fair?

    IMO, the biggest loss is the 1 seed schedule. Now the Bills play both KC and CIN instead of the winner of those two had they kept the 1 seed. I don’t care who you are of the 3…you play each other 5 times, none of them are going 5/5…and very likely not 3/3 either. Having to beat both is a tall order! I just hope the SB rep in the winner of the Bills/Bengals, assuming they have to play KC in the AFCCG…because that team will have truly earned it having taken down both the other two.

    ——

    They had the opportunity. They took the easy way out and chose not to continue the game they were trailing. As someone else pointed out they knew they likely had the 2 seed locked up by quitting. Don’t worry though, they’ll win both games. The league will be sure of it.

  52. They had the opportunity. They took the easy way out and chose not to continue the game they were trailing. As someone else pointed out they knew they likely had the 2 seed locked up by quitting. Don’t worry though, they’ll win both games. The league will be sure of it.

    ——

    What’s sad is you probably actually believe that. The Bills gave up a bye, homefield throughout, and an easier SB path because they were down 4 points midway through the first quarter and would rather just lock up the 2 seed to trade homefield for one game? Right… You do know the Bills D tends to stiffen as the game goes, right? Might the Bills have lost? Certainly. But was that the most likely outcome? I dunno. Vegas certainly didn’t think so. We have no idea what would have happened. I certainly would have gambled flipping the 2/3 seeds for a good shot at the 1 seed! But they gave all that up not knowing what would happen for a more important cause…one CIN was seemingly in agreeance with, BTW.

    Does it suck for simple football matters? You bet. But believe it or not, the Bills also got the shaft here with the situation… The Bengals maybe lost one game’s homefield. But the Bills maybe lost a lot more than that.

  53. They should had made it simple and just let the existing rules play out and then no one anywhere could complain about anything, but no, this is what happens when you are trying to make everyone happy, not going to happen, rules are rules.

  54. IMO, the biggest loss is the 1 seed schedule. Now the Bills play both KC and CIN instead of the winner of those two had they kept the 1 seed. I don’t care who you are of the 3…you play each other 5 times, none of them are going 5/5…and very likely not 3/3 either.

    ———-

    Except of course that the Bengals are already 3/3 against the Chiefs within one calendar year.

  55. I would just like to reply to the person that said the NFL stepped up with all the personnel at the Bengals\bills Monday night football game. The NFL did do the right thing, but they did not have anything to do with the personnel that specifically responded to the bills player that had a heart attack. That is totally on the Bengals ownership. They pay an extra premium to have medical staff available at that game I am not positive whether it is paid for for each home game, the medical personnel are trained and Capable of responding to an incident like what happened. Typically there would not be a defibrillator on site nor a medical staff that’s trained properly to use it. The Bengals pay extra to have that on site just in case so it really wasn’t the NFL that had anything to do with those people being there when they needed to be there that was all on the Bengals ownership .

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