Taking a look at the options for proceeding with the 2022 regular season
Although the primary concern for everyone who cares about the NFL and the men who play the game continues to be the health of Bills safety Damar Hamlin, the 2022 regular season eventually will continue. It’s unclear how and when that will happen.
We’ve been thinking about and discussing potential options. There is no perfect solution. The NFL eventually will have to select the option that it believes is the best from a collection of imperfect outcomes.
A list of possible approaches follows. There may be other options. There may be better options. These are the ones that currently come to mind.
1. Cancel the Bills-Bengals game and proceed with Week 18.
This would avoid any adjustment to the remaining schedule. The Bills-Bengals game would be declared a no contest. The practical impact would be that the Bills and Bengals would have one fewer game. Seeding for the postseason would be determined based on winning percentage.
Under the scenario, the Chiefs would capture the No. 1 seed by beating the Raiders. The Bengals would win the AFC North, regardless of the outcome of Cincinnati’s Week 18 game against the Ravens.
2. Play Bills-Bengals this weekend, and delay Week 18 by a week.
This would ensure that every team plays 17 games. But it would compel the Bills and Bengals to play fairly soon, at a time when no one else is playing. It also would eliminate the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Yes, the NFL did that when rearranging the schedule in 2001 following 9/11. In those days, the Pro Bowl happened after the Super Bowl. This approach would necessitate cancellation of the reimagined approach to Pro Bowl weekend. (That definitely shouldn’t be viewed as an impediment.)
This approach also would delay by a week the conclusion of the season for teams that have no chance to make the playoffs. The teams that are already eliminated surely don’t want their seasons to linger by another week.
To remedy that approach, Week 18 could be played this weekend, with only Bills-Bengals played the following weekend and the playoffs starting the week after that.
3. Cancel Bills-Bengals and delay Week 18.
This becomes a potentially attractive option, if players throughout the league are struggling to get themselves in the proper frame of mind to play this weekend.
It would require AFC playoff seeding to be determined by winning percentages, and it would eliminate the bye week between the conference championship and the Super Bowl. But it would give all players extra time before being expected to suit up again and play.
Again, it also would delay by a week the commencement of the offseason for the 18 teams that miss the playoffs.
4. Play Bills-Bengals during a reconfigured postseason.
This is an idea that could be getting some traction, as the league tries to come up with the best bad option.
Under this approach, Week 18 would proceed as scheduled. The following weekend, the NFC wild-card games would be played, along with Bills-Bengals. The next weekend, the AFC wild-card games would be played.
Then, the rest of the playoffs would unfold, but without the bye week between conference championships and the Super Bowl.
This would ensure that all teams play 17 games. It would give all AFC playoff teams (except the Bills and Bengals) a week off. It would give the NFC wild-card winners a week off. And the NFC No. 1 seed would go three weeks between games.
Again, there’s no perfect solution. The simplest would be to not play Bills-Bengals at all and proceed with Week 18. Whether the NFL deems that one to be the best remains to be seen.