CINCINNATI — Rocky Boiman says perhaps canceling the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game isn't necessarily fair to other teams, but when it comes down to it, he doesn’t think the NFL had any other options.
What You Need To Know
- The NFL is canceling the suspended Bills-Bengals game in light of the injury to Damar Hamlin
- Canceling the game has a major impact on the playoffs, including potential seeding for both the Bills and the Bengals
- While some fans feel the game needs to happen for "fairness," others feel the teams need to "move on" from the harrowing injury
The NFL announced the decision to cancel the game Thursday night. The league suspended the game Monday night after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin collapsed midway through the first quarter after suffering cardiac arrest.
“This has been a very difficult week,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition, as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
Boiman, a former NFL linebacker and current 700WLW radio broadcaster, felt the game should be made up partly because of its impact on local businesses and economies that benefit from NFL games. The biggest reason for playing it, he said, is the integrity of the playoff format.
Still, one of the challenges remains timing, he said.
Both the Bills and the Bengals have scheduled contests this weekend, and the NFL currently plans to begin the wild-card playoff round the following week. The NFL has a scheduled off-week between the conference championship round of the playoffs on Jan. 29 and Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Ariz.
Among the key factors in arriving at this decision, Goodell said, is the fact that it won’t affect which teams make the plays. He also noted avoiding having to delay the start of the postseason.
“Should they play the game? Yes, in a perfect world, but I don’t think they can at this point,” Boiman said.
“It sounds easy to just push the playoffs back a week, but there’s a lot of logistics and planning that goes into every game, from vendors and venues to air travel and hotel rooms,” he added. “A lot of times these things are decided months, if not a year, in advance. And those things just get ramped up to a new level in the playoffs, so trying to coordinate that for 10 to 12 football games is a lot.”
Canceling the game could have major implications for the upcoming playoffs.
Buffalo (12-3) entered Paycor Stadium on Monday night, needing a win to keep the top seed in the AFC. That now belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs (13-3).
The Bengals (11-4) had a chance to earn home-field advantage up to the Super Bowl with two more wins and a loss by the Chiefs. Now, it appears they’ll have to settle for winning the AFC North for a second straight season.
On Friday, the NFL is holding a Special League Meeting to present a two-part resolution to all clubs to address the uneven schedule.
The first part of the resolution discusses playing at a neutral site if teams that didn’t play the same number of contests make it to the AFC Championship Game, per the NFL statement. Those circumstances involve only Buffalo or Cincinnati.
- If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or both tie this weekend, they’d play at a neutral site if they make the title game.
- In a scenario where Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, a Bills-Chiefs championship game would take place at a neutral site.
- Cincinnati or Buffalo would play a neutral-site game against Kansas City if both the Bills and Chiefs lose and the Bengals win this weekend.
The other scenario covers what would happen if Baltimore defeats Cincinnati this weekend and they end up playing in the wild card round.
If those two teams face off in the opening round, the game site would come down to a coin toss. The league would use regular scheduling rules if the Bengals win or the two teams don’t play in the first round.
The goal is to limit league disruptions and competitive inequities, Goodell said, adding that there is “no perfect solution” given the extraordinary circumstances.
“Obviously, we’re all focused on the health of Hamlin right now, but when the reality of the impact of canceling the game comes to light, some fans will be really upset and understandably so,” Boiman said.
Bengals fan Joanne Farmer feels canceling the game is best for all teams. It also gives the Bengals and Bills can “move on” from what they experienced over the past few days, she added.
Farmer was selling sports merchandise outside the Cincinnati stadium on Monday when the incident with Hamlin went down. She described watching droves of fans of both methodically exit the facility after having their passion “sucked out of them.”
The only reason they should’ve continued the game, Farmer said, is if canceling it would have hurt the playoff chances of either the Bengals or Bills. Since it won’t, she feels not playing is the right thing to do.
“Making them replay it would be too traumatic for the players,” Farmer added. “I can only imagine what the Bills players would feel if they had to come back here to play the game, and I don’t think the Bengals would have as much energy if we played it in Buffalo.”
Whether to continue or restart the game couldn’t have been a straightforward decision for the league, said Adam Tarczynski, a Bills fan from Hamburg, N.Y. He just hoped it was made by the players and the teams.
Goodell wrote Thursday night that he made the decision after speaking with leadership from the Bills, the Bengals and NFL Players Association.
“If they came together and agreed to play or not, I think you’d have to support their decision,” Tarczynski said. “Playoff seeding, records are all kinds of secondary right now to Damar’s health and how the team is dealing with that tragedy. This situation really takes the game itself and puts it in the backseat.”
Before Hamlin’s injury, Buffalo fans clamored about the possibility of getting the No. 1 seed and having teams come to Buffalo throughout the AFC playoffs, Tarczynski said.
But right now, to him, that doesn’t really seem to matter at all.
“Seeding, records, to us fans, it just doesn’t matter. Damar’s health and the well-being of the team are the most important right now,” he added. “If we even had to forfeit the Cincinnati game, or even this weekend’s game, fine. We’d go on the road and deal with it when the games resume. But right now, that’s not what most of us are focused on.”
Pam Griffin, a business owner in downtown Cincinnati, never thought the game would be made up. “It would have been nice, especially with all the teams being affected, but it just didn’t seem plausible.”
Regardless of playoff seeding, she’s focused on getting back to worrying about the action on the field.
“They need to get back to normal,” she said. “Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are going to continue to be with Damar and his family, but as Bengals fans, we’re looking forward to winning to send us in the playoffs on a high note.”