How declaring Bills/Bengals a ‘no contest’ would affect playoff seeding in the AFC


Though all that matters right now is Damar Hamlin’s health, the NFL will have to make a ruling at some point, deciding whether to resume Monday night’s suspended game between Buffalo and Cincinnati at a later date or scrap it entirely.

The latter outcome seems most likely—making it up would be a scheduling nightmare for the NFL, particularly with the playoffs beginning next week. While that would be the more practical approach, it would also put the Bills at a distinct disadvantage, all but handing Kansas City the AFC’s top playoff seed, along with the first-round bye that comes with it. It would also clear the way for Cincinnati to win the AFC North for the second time in as many seasons, even if the Bengals lose to Baltimore Sunday.

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By virtue of their head-to-head win in Week 6, the Bills hold the tiebreaker over Kansas City, though if the NFL declares the game a “no contest,” the Chiefs could clinch homefield advantage in the AFC with a win Saturday at Las Vegas. Not only would Buffalo, in that scenario, be subject to a Wild Card game, but if they were to advance to the conference championship against Kansas City, it would be played at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Bills have lost in the playoffs each of the past two years. One possible compromise would be to have that game at a neutral site, but as alluded to by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk on NBC Sports, the Chiefs would have to sign off on it, willingly yielding their homefield advantage to a bitter rival in a game determining who will represent the AFC in next month’s Super Bowl.

Again, Buffalo’s only concern right now is supporting Hamlin as he fights for his life following one of the most frightening and surreal on-field moments in recent memory. However, navigating the aftermath of an unprecedented event could prove challenging for all involved, with no obvious or easy solutions to how the NFL moves forward with a game that, in all likelihood, will not be revisited. This uncertainty has also been a talking point among the fantasy and betting communities, with many sportsbooks refunding or voiding wagers made on Monday’s abandoned game.

It seems insensitive to talk about semantics at a time like this, with fans continuing to hold their collective breath, hoping and praying that Hamlin makes a full recovery. But the NFL will have to address the playoff and seeding implications of Monday’s tragedy sooner or later, trying to make sense of an impossible situation.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig, Getty Images