How The NFL Should Handle AFC Home-Field Advantage In The Playoffs
Obviously, the most important concern was the health of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.
Fortunately, the safety, who suffered a cardiac arrest in the first quarter of Monday’s game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, appears to be on the mend.
Now the question becomes what to do about the logistics of home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, following the suspension of the Bills-Bengals game.
Because the Bills defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 in Week Six, the Bills would have earned the No. 1 seed, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the bye had they defeated the Bengals and New England Patriots in Weeks 17 and 18, respectively.
Having home-field is very significant for the Bills, considering they have lost to the Chiefs at raucous Arrowhead Stadium the last two years in the playoffs.
And home-field advantage has been a goal of the Chiefs since Day One.
“That’s always on our mind,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said. “We’ve been trying to play our tails off to put ourselves in the best position when it comes playoff time.”
After the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game, the Chiefs would now hold the best AFC record at 14-3, assuming they defeat the 6-10 Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday.
Neither giving the Chiefs nor Bills home-field advantage seems fair, which is why I thought they’d resume Bills at Bengals in a newly-created Week 19, push the start of the playoffs back, and then do away with the bye before the Super Bowl.
However, the NFL has said they won’t resume the game, and not wanting to revisit the scene of such a dark moment in understandable. ESPN’s Adam Schefter called it “bad mojo.”
Pending approval of a special league meeting, which should happen before Saturday’s games, the NFL will have the AFC Championship Game played at a neutral site — if the Bengals, Bills or Chiefs are playing in the game — in an attempt to make things more just.
That resolution was recommended by commissioner Roger Goodell and approved Thursday by the Competition Committee.
“I recognize that there is no perfect solution,” Goodell said in a statement. “The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”
Schefter had proposed another idea, which had been suggested by ESPN’s Matt Hasselbeck, and it was the most creative and sensible.
The idea was to declare Bills-Bengals a tie. The team that finishes with the best winning percentage is the No. 1 seed in the AFC and can choose either a bye or home-field advantage. The No. 2 seed then gets the option the No. 1 seed didn’t choose.
Whatever the resolution, playing in the AFC Championship Game has a financial component for its players. In addition to some individual contractual incentives, players earn $69,000 (up from $65,000 in 2021) for reaching the conference championship game and at least $82,000 (up from $75,000) if they reach Super Bowl LVI.
The Chiefs have hosted the last four AFC Championship Games. The Competition Committee’s resolution could put that in peril despite the Chiefs having the best record.
Despite the logistical mess and the potentially muddled postseason path to Super Bowl LVI, the Chiefs remain resolute.
“I don’t know what’s going on there, but I know we need to take care of our business,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “That’s all I can help control, right? I don’t know about anything else.”