CINCINNATI (WXIX) – Team owners on Friday approved a plan for AFC playoff seeding and game locations put forward Thursday night by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Bengals organization is justifiably unhappy about it.
The plan, per Goodell, ostensibly “addresses the most significant potential equitable issues” and “minimize[s] competitive inequities” created by the league’s unprecedented cancellation of the Bengals-Bills game. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution,” Goodell said.
But it’s the Bengals who get the short end of the stick, being disadvantaged in a number of ways.
“It seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and just negatives for us,” Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor said Friday.
The Bengals (11-4) have secured the AFC North division title over the Ravens (11-6) by virtue of winning percentage, which is the standard way titles are handed out in unusual cases, according to the NFL rule book.
Even so, if the Bengals lose to the Ravens on Sunday at Paycor Stadium—and the Chargers (10-6) beat the Broncos (4-12)—the site for what would be a Bengals-Ravens rematch in the wild-card round would be determined by, of all things, a coin flip.
“So we have the opportunity to play for a coin flip that can only negatively impact us,” Taylor said. “We don’t have the ability to play for a coin flip that can positively impact us? Again, let’s just follow the rules.”
Consider also that if the Bengals and the Bills (12-3) both win this weekend and then meet in the divisional round, Cincinnati would travel to Buffalo even though the location of that game would formerly have been decided by the Monday Night Football game that was canceled.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon reacted skeptically to the plan Thursday night, tweeting the league’s preexisting policy for cancelled games: “If a game is cancelled,” the policy reads, “a team’s standing in its division or in its conference […]shall be determined on the basis of its final record.”
Said Mixon, “So we not following the rules no more.”
Bengals Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn, who is on the NFL’s competition committee, fought back against the plan earlier in the week. She sent a memo to the rest of the league Thursday urging them to reject it.
ESPN’s Ben Baby reports: “[…]Blackburn urged the committee members to vote against the scenarios. Her reasoning stemmed from the timing of a rule change away from the standard of winning percentages used in this scenario.
‘The proper process for making rule change (sic) is in the off-season,” Blackburn wrote. “It is not appropriate to put teams in a position to vote for something that may introduce bias, favor one team over another or impact their own situation when the vote takes place immediately before the playoffs.’”
Taylor commended Blackburn’s memo.
“That’s awesome,” he said. “They’ve got this team’s back. It’s important for the team to know that, because somebody’s got to fight for you, and it’s clearly not coming from the league. It’s nice to have our ownership and front office support the players like they have. That is important for us.”
Taylor remarked the Bengals just “want the rules to be followed. And when a game is cancelled, that you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make up the rules.”
He continued: “There’s several instances this season where the club is fined or people in our building are fined, and we are being told to follow the rules. It’s black and white in the rulebook. So now, when we point out the rules, and you are told, ‘We are going to change that,’ …I don’t want to hear about ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’ when that is the case.”
The Bengals play the Ravens on Sunday at 1 p.m. That’s where the team’s focus has turned, as wide receiver Tee Higgins noted Thursday in the aftermath of Hamlin’s awakening.
“At the end of the day we are professional football players, and we do have a job to do,” he said.
Taylor wryly said of the Ravens game it’s an opportunity to “reclaim the opportunity” to play the wild-card round at Paycor Stadium.
“We just have to turn our focus to getting ready for Baltimore and then do everything we can to control what we can control at that point.”
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