NFL Could Reach Decision on Suspended Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals Game on Thursday

Posted on: January 5, 2023, 02:17h. 

Last updated on: January 5, 2023, 12:20h.

Update: The Buffalo Bills released an update on Hamlin’s condition Thursday afternoon. The team stated that, although he remains in critical condition, he is “neurologically intact.” In addition, he has shown “remarkable improvement” in his recovery and his lungs are healing. While his situation remains delicate, the news comes as a huge relief to his family and friends, as well as the entire NFL community.

Earlier: The good news is that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin reportedly continues to recover after going into cardiac arrest during the team’s Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The decision to suspend the game that night in light of the medical emergency has led to confusion over what happens next to the season, and the league could provide an update on the game’s status on Thursday.

Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills players react after teammate Damar Hamlin suffered a life-threatening injury in the game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. The NFL suspended the game on Monday night, and could decide today how to conclude the season. (Image: Getty Images)

There has been significant speculation about how the NFL might handle the situation. The game had serious implications for the teams’ standings, and calling it off can change the entire dynamic of the postseason.

Different NFL analysts and insiders have provided their insight into how the league might move forward. Based on the most recent chatter, it’s possible Commissioner Roger Goodell could announce a decision sometime Thursday.

Hamlin Still Progressing

Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after making what seemed like a routine hit during the game. Reports later indicated that medical personnel brought him back to life on the field before an ambulance took him to a local hospital.

The 24-year-old was still in intensive care and breathing with the help of a ventilator on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Bills, but is showing “signs of improvement.” He will remain in ICU as doctors and nurses continue to guide his recovery.

As the NFL world closely follows his progress, the league’s games have to move forward. Because so much was riding on the outcome of that Bills-Bengals contest, making a call on what to do next isn’t easy.

Goodell has full autonomy to make the determination, although he won’t likely do so without input from NFL and team officials. With a set of games taking place this Saturday and Sunday, time is running out for an announcement to be made.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport believes there are three likely scenarios. The first two would be to call the game a tie or a no-contest. Neither is ideal for creating the postseason standings.

The third option would be a Week 19 for the Bills and Bengals to play. This would imply eliminating the bye between the AFC and NFC championship games and the Super Bowl. This option is the one that would allow the season to most closely resemble its path before Hamlin’s accident.

That would also force other changes. The Pro Bowl is currently scheduled for February 5, a week before the Super Bowl. That period also coincides with media week and other events, all of which would have to shift. It also could force the postseason, scheduled to begin on January 14, to change.

Cancel Week 18

Ryan Leaf, a former – and controversial – NFL quarterback, believes the best option is to cancel Week 18. He tweeted on Wednesday that it’s the only way the NFL can show that it “truly cares” about the health of players.

The gridiron gurus behind “Pro Football Talk” think they have an inside track on what’s going to happen when the NFL makes its announcement. They tweeted Wednesday night that the game might not take place at all. Instead, the seeding for the AFC playoff lineup could fall in line with the conference teams’ winning percentages after Week 18.

The Bills were set to take the top seed in the AFC, and not resuming the game would be the easiest path to keep the rest of the season on schedule. However, the plan would almost certainly give the Kansas City Chiefs the top seed and home-field advantage for the playoffs. In other words, if the Bills don’t do well in the postseason, some will forever argue that it was because the NFL stole the opportunity from them.

No matter how you look at it, there isn’t a single “perfect” outcome. The league has to make an imperfect decision in an imperfect scenario. No one likes to see a life-threatening injury to an athlete on the field, but it doesn’t mean the world will stop turning.

That decision will likely be made today.