The NFL announced on Wednesday that talks have begun on whether to resume Week 17’s Bills-Bengals game, which was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during the first quarter of the game.
During a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, NFL EVP of communications, public affairs and policy Jeff Miller said the league has not made a decision on the status of the game but plans to in the coming days, adding that both the Bengals and Bills would be consulted.
NFL EVP of football operations Troy Vincent said during the call that “everything is being considered” regarding the Bills-Bengals game. Vincent said the league will lean on the guiding principles it used during the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the “value of winning and winning percentage” in order to give Commissioner Roger Goodell suggestions on how to proceed if the game were not to be resumed.
According to NFL Research, the following playoff-clinching scenarios are in play if the Bills-Bengals game is canceled:
- Bengals clinch AFC North, but would not have a path to the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage (Ravens cannot clinch division even if they beat Bengals in Week 18 because an 11-5 Cincinnati team would best an 11-6 Baltimore).
- Chiefs can clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win Saturday (Chiefs would be the only team capable of reaching 14 wins).
- Chiefs would also clinch the No. 1 seed if the Bills lose vs. the Patriots in Week 18.
- Bills can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win vs. the Patriots + a Chiefs loss at the Raiders in Week 18.
- Bengals can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win vs. the Ravens + a Bills loss vs. the Patriots in Week 18 (would go to strength of victory tiebreaker).
The Bills, who announced Thursday morning that Hamlin has shown “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours” and “appears to be neurologically intact,” returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since the harrowing incident. They are scheduled to host the Patriots on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday there is no discussion of not playing the game as scheduled.
The league also confirmed the full Week 18 schedule on Wednesday, including the official start time for the Ravens-Bengals game (1 p.m. ET), which had previously been undetermined.