The NFL made a solid decision in postponing the Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills following a tragic injury to safety Damar Hamlin, but are they doing the right thing by canceling the contest outright?
Both the Bengals and Bills are involved in heated battles for playoff seeding. Buffalo was in-line for the top seed in the AFC, but removing the Cincinnati game from their schedule will allow the Kansas City Chiefs to finish slightly ahead of them if they win this weekend.
The AFC North Division is also being impacted by the decision to cancel the game. Now that the Bengals are playing one less game than the Baltimore Ravens, their lead in the AFC North has become unsurmountable.
This also complicates things for gamblers who wagered on NFL futures for the AFC Championship or AFC North props.
The problem is there’s not enough time to complete the game prior to the end of the regular season and the onset of the NFL Playoffs. Had this occurred mid-season, there would have been more room for the league to make concessions and finish the game at some point.
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith has suggested that the NFL push back the playoffs one week, thus eliminating the bye week between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl on February 14th.
“[T]hat would be the only game that week, and the playoffs begin the following week. Nobody else is going to complain about having that additional week off. It gives you an opportunity to get healthy as a team, collectively as a league. You go out there, everybody had two weeks off, the playoffs begin.”
Stephen A. Smith – ESPN
Smith’s proposition would eliminate the 2023 NFL Pro Bowl, a game the league has struggled to draw attention to since its inception. While betting on the Pro Bowl is fun, it pales in comparison to the potential completion of the Bengals and Bills game that would be the only contest of the weekend.
Despite Smith’s suggestion, the NFL has decided to move forth with the cancellation and is now pondering options for how to deal with the unfair scheduling.
League officials are gathering for a meeting today to comb through the details and come up with a plan. Rumored continencies include the following:
- Should the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills advance to the AFC Championship Game, the game will be played at a neutral site if both teams win this weekend.
- If the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, and they end up playing each other during the wild card round of the NFL Playoffs, then that game would be played at a neutral stadium.
To further confuse gamblers looking to bet on the NFL Playoffs, there are more outcomes that include Cincinnati in on the neutral AFC Championship Game scenario, but both KC and Buffalo would need to lose this weekend.
The Bengals, Bills, and Chiefs are all favored to win by significant margins in Week 18.