NFL owners approved a resolution to adjust the AFC playoff schedule if necessary following the cancellation of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on Friday (January 6).
The league is heading into its final weekend of the 2022 regular-season and the Bills and Bengals -- both of whom have clinched playoff berth and division titles -- currently rank second and third in the AFC standings respectively.
With the cancellation of last Monday's (January 2) game, potential home field advantage in the AFC Championship Game and possibly the Wild Card could be affected depending on the outcome of the Week 18 schedule.
NFL owners have agreed that the AFC Championship Game will be played at a neutral site if the following factors take place in Week 18, per NFL.com:
- Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both win or tie in Week 18 + both teams advance to the AFC title game.
- Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both lose + Cincinnati (11-4) also loses or ties in Week 18 + Buffalo and Kansas City advance to the AFC title game.
- Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both lose + Cincinnati (11-4) wins + the AFC title game is either Bills-Chiefs or Bengals-Chiefs.
The neutral site of the AFC would be determined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if necessary.
Additionally, if the Ravens beat the Bengals and the Chargers beat the Broncos, setting up a rematch between Baltimore and Cincinnati in the Wild Card Game, the site of the game will be determined by a coin toss.
Monday's game was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed suddenly on the field and was hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest.
On Thursday (January 5), the NFL announced that it would not resume the postponed Bills-Bengals matchup.
Hamlin had his breathing tube removed overnight and made contact with players and coaches, the team announced in a series of updates shared on Twitter.
"Per the physicians at UCMC, Damar’s breathing tube was removed overnight," the Bills tweeted. "He continues to progress remarkably in his recovery. His neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team."
The Bills added that Hamlin FaceTimed players and coaches and told the team "Love you boys."
Hamlin collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest during the now-canceled Monday Night Football matchup between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
Hamlin, 24, tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during the first quarter of Monday's game and got back to his feet before suddenly falling to the ground. A stretcher and ambulance came onto the field and CPR was administered by first responders.
Dr. William Knight IV and Dr. Timothy Pritts addressed reporters Thursday (January 5) afternoon and confirmed that Hamlin was making "substantial progress" and "is awaking."
"He's made substantial improvement. It appears his neurological condition and function is intact," Pritts said via NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "We are very proud to report that. ... This marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care."
“It’s been a long and difficult road for the past few days," Knight added via NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. "He has been very sick and has made a fairly remarkable improvement."
The physicians confirmed reports that Hamlin was awake as of Wednesday (January 4) night.
Pritts said Hamlin has been able to communicate through writing as he still has a breathing tube in and asked doctors "did we win?" in relation to Monday's game."
"Our response was: Damar, you won. You won the game of life," Pritts said via Pelissero.
The doctors said Hamlin still has a long process in his recovery and the next goal is to get him off a ventilator and breathing on his own, but confirmed that he will eventually be discharged from the hospital, according to NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe.
Hamlin was selected by the Bills at No. 212 overall in the sixth-round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 24-year-old started in 13 of the 15 games he appeared in and recorded 91 tackles, six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks during his second season.
A GoFundMe page initially launched by Hamlin as part of a toy drive has raised more than $7 million since his hospitalization, far exceeding the charity's initial goal of $2,500.
An update shared on Tuesday clarified that further contributions would go toward Hamlin's ongoing medical battle.