The NFL announced that the Week 17 matchup between Buffalo Bills (12-3) and the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) would not be rescheduled and laid out the possible scenarios for how the AFC playoff seedings will shake out once the Week 18 matchups conclude, adjustments that were officially approved on Friday, January 6.
“As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” Roger Goodell said in the league memo sent out on Thursday night. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. 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.”
One team that is clearly unhappy with the new changes is the Bengals. Their issue is not personal against the Bills, nor is their frustration from their game against Buffalo not getting resumed. While Bengals running back Joe Mixon immediately called out the league on Thursday night, “🤔 So we not following the rules no more 🐸☕️,” he tweeted, his coach, Zac Taylor slammed the NFL for being grossly inconsistent while speaking to the media on Friday.
“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed, and when a game is canceled that you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make up the rules,” Taylor said. “There’s several instances this season where the club is fined or people in our building are fined and we are being told to follow the rules. It’s black and white in the rulebook.”
“So now, when we point out the rules and you are told we going to change that, I don’t want to hear about fair and equitable when that is the case.”
Taylor’s frustration stems from the league’s decision on how to deal with the AFC North and home-field advantage coming down to a coin toss if the Bengals lose to the Ravens on Sunday.
The NFL memo stated, “If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18 it will have defeated Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, twice but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule.
“If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are scheduled to play a Wild Card game against one another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.”
Bengals Executive Wrote a Stern Letter to the NFL
It’s not just Taylor and Mixon fighting the new rules, but Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn wrote a letter to the NFL stating that “the proper process for making rules changes is in the offseason,” per Pro Football Talk, and how it’s “not appropriate” to make them up as you go.
Taylor appreciated having strong support from the team’s front office. “Yeah, it’s awesome,” Taylor said. “They’ve got this team’s back. It’s important for the team to know that because somebody’s got to fight for you. It’s clearly not coming from the league.”
“It seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and just negatives for us,” Taylor added. “We have the opportunity to play for a coin flip that can only negatively impact us. We don’t have the opportunity to play for a coin flip that positively impact us. Again, let’s just follow the rules and we accept that. We just have to turn our focus to getting ready for Baltimore and then doing everything we can to control what we can control at that point.”
The Bills are No Longer the No. 1 Seed in the AFC
With the new league rule changes, the Kansas City Chiefs edge out the Bills for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The only path for Buffalo to reclaim the top spot would be to defeat the New England Patriots on Sunday, January 8, and hope the Las Vegas Raiders defeat the Chiefs (13-3).
While it’s frustrating the Bills no longer control their destiny, the team’s focus, and what they consider a win, is seeing Damar Hamlin’s remarkable recovery. During an emotional press conference on Friday, general manager Brandon Beane said that he’s not sure how the rest of the season will play out but, “This is a group of winners… I don’t know if there’s a team I’ve ever been more proud of.”
It was hard to imagine how the Bills would power through and play after their traumatic night at Paycor Stadium just five days ago, but now that Hamlin is awake, off the breathing tube, and was able to FaceTime the team and gesture, “I love you,” Buffalo appears reinvigorated and ready to get back on the field.