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How does the Bills vs Bengals postponement affect NFL playoff scenarios?

In the wake of the shocking and terrifying collapse of Damar Hamlin on MNF, the NFL has made the good decision to suspend the game. What does that mean for the playoffs?

In the wake of the shocking and terrifying collapse of Damar Hamlin on MNF, the NFL has made the good decision to suspend the game. What does that mean for the playoffs?
Joseph MaioranaUSA TODAY Sports

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field on Monday during the Bills vs Cincinnati Bengals game, the NFL decided to postpone the game completely. After an initial pause, the gravity of the situation became clear quite quickly. By 10 p.m. ET, the league had made the decision to postpone. Now, they have announced that the game will not be played this week at all.

The NFL’s decision to suspend the game is absolutely the right one and Hamlin’s health is what is important right now. It was later revealed he suffered cardiac arrest, and he remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The league will move forward with the Week 18 games as scheduled for now, and it’s not yet known when or even if they will in fact reschedule the Bills vs Bengals game. If it is canceled completely, it will definitely affect the playoff picture. Let’s take a look at how.

NFL playoff implications if Bills vs Bengals is canceled

The league did not yet outright cancel the game, but it will definitely prove tricky to reschedule with the playoffs set to start next week and the Week 18 games set to go ahead this week. So let’s assume the NFL cancels the game completely.

When the Bills vs Bengals game started, the Bills were in control of their destiny as far as the AFC top seed went. They needed to win that game and their Week 18 game to officially clinch the top seed in the AFC. If the Bills had lost or tied the game with the Bengals, then the Kansas City Chiefs would have won the top seed. The Bengals would have clinched the AFC North if they’d won the game against the Bills, but a loss would have meant they needed to beat the Baltimore Ravens in order to clinch the division. They would have clinched the top seed in the AFC if they’d won out and the Chiefs lost out. The Chiefs won their Week 17 game over the Broncos.

The Bills currently sit a half-game behind the Chiefs in the standings. If the Bills vs Bengals game does not resume, then it will be as if the Bills lost or tied to the Bengals. So if the Chiefs then beat the Raiders in Week 18, the Chiefs would clinch the top seed in the AFC, regardless of the outcome of the Bills and New England Patriots game.

As for the Bengals, they would win the AFC North if the game against the Bills is canceled. They are a game and a half ahead of the Ravens in the division so the only way the Ravens could have won the AFC North crown would be if the Bengals lost to the Bills in Week 17, which would not be the case if that game does not resume. So, they would win the division and be locked into the 3rd seed in the AFC.

In a nutshell, here are the scenarios in Week 18 (yes, you should have just skipped to this part):

  • A Chiefs win (vs Raiders) would give them the top seed in the AFC.
  • A Chiefs win could still allow the Bills the second seed if they also win (vs Patriots).
  • A Chiefs loss and Bills win would mean the Bills get the top seed in the AFC.
  • The Bengals will win the AFC North regardless of any other outcomes.
  • The Bengals cannot win the top seed in the AFC regardless of any other outcomes .
  • A Bengals win (vs Ravens) and Bills loss would require a tiebreaker that could see the Bengals with the second seed in the AFC.

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