Indianapolis, Detroit decline bids to host neutral-site AFC Championship

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The cancellation of Monday night’s game between Buffalo and Cincinnati, the result of Damar Hamlin’s traumatic injury, going into cardiac arrest following his collision with Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, will have a significant impact on playoff seeding, prompting the NFL to explore a neutral-site AFC Championship Game. There are only a handful of scenarios where that would come into play (most involving Buffalo and Kansas City), though it’s important for the league to have a contingency plan in place, making the best of a difficult situation.

Finding a venue that satisfies these conditions is no small task, with dozens of mitigating factors to consider. For instance, Lucas Oil Stadium, a state-of-the-art facility that has hosted multiple Final Fours, the College Football National Championship and Super Bowl XLVI, would be a logical candidate to stage a presumed Bills/Chiefs AFC title game, if not for a previously scheduled volleyball tournament bringing 30,000 players and their families to Indianapolis that same weekend (January 28th and 29th). Detroit’s Ford Field, where the Bills have already played twice this season (once against the Lions on Thanksgiving and again when Buffalo was struck by a record snowstorm that shut down virtually the entire city), has also bowed out of hosting the AFC Championship, citing stadium renovations including plans to put in a new, turf playing surface.

That doesn’t leave the NFL with many options, though Pittsburgh’s Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field) and the Rose Bowl have each been suggested as potential host venues. The decision to scrap Monday’s game, officially declared a “no contest” by the NFL, could also have ramifications for the Bengals and Ravens if they end up playing each other in next week’s Wild Card Round, with homefield advantage for that game potentially coming down to a coin flip. Of course, that won’t be necessary if the Bengals take care of business Sunday, beating Baltimore to clinch their second straight AFC North title. It’s a lot to keep track of, though credit the NFL for adjusting on the fly, arriving at a workable compromise amid unprecedented circumstances.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Andy Lyons, Getty Images