What New AFC Playoff Changes Mean For Ravens-Bengals

Week 18 could be huge in deciding the AFC Championship Game


Jan 6, 2023

The NFL owners approved the proposed changes to the AFC playoffs.

An adjustment was needed after the league announced it would cancel the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game following safety Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest at Paycor Stadium on Monday night.

The Bills and the Bengals had a chance at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but the Kansas City Chiefs likely will hang on after Week 18. The Baltimore Ravens also had an opportunity to win the AFC North, but the Bengals clinched the division this week after the league’s decision.

That said, the NFL wanted to keep things fair if Buffalo or Cincinnati was to reach the AFC Championship Game and thus came up with the following changes in a G-1 resolution sent out via press release:

The AFC Championship Game will be played on a neutral site that will be determined by commissioner Roger Goodell if the matchup features a team that played in less games and could have been the No. 1 seed. If the Bills or the Bengals play the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, that game will be played on a neutral site.

However, if the matchup features Buffalo and Cincinnati, the game will be played at the home stadium of the higher team, which would be the Bills, according to records prior to Week 18.

Also, if the Ravens beat the Bengals this Sunday, and the two teams are scheduled to play in the wild-card round, the site of the game will be determined by a coin toss supervised by Goodell. This is because Baltimore beat Cincinnati in Week 5, and if the Bengals had lost Monday and this Sunday, then the Ravens would have won the AFC North.

Cincinnati is the No. 3 seed and Baltimore is the No. 6 seed prior to Week 18, so the teams would play against each other in the AFC wild-card round.

The Los Angeles Chargers play the Denver Broncos this Sunday, and a loss for LA would move the Ravens up to the No. 5 seed to face the winner of the AFC South (either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tennessee Titans).

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Friday that Lamar Jackson will not play in Sunday’s contest. The hope is for Tyler Huntley to start, but backup Anthony Brown is ready to go for Baltimore if needed.

Thumbnail photo via Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer via USA TODAY Sports Images
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