NFL agrees to possible neutral site for AFC title game

The NFL has voted to change the rules for the AFC playoffs after the cancellation of the regular-season game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, paving the way for a possible neutral site title game.

Monday's game between the two AFC teams was postponed and then fully cancelled after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field.

The 24-year-old, who has been in hospital since the nationally televised game, had his breathing tube removed overnight and had a video call with his team-mates as his condition continues to improve.

But the unusual situation of two teams having played one game less than the rest of the league has led the NFL to adjust their system for choosing home field advantage in the AFC post-season.

Normally match-ups and home field advantage are determined by seeding based on the better regular-season records.

The league's previous ruling for cases where teams played less than the full regular season schedule used a calculation based on winning percentage over the season.

But on Friday, the league voted for a resolution which would see the AFC Championship game played at a neutral site in certain scenarios where team's do not have a clear difference in records.

The decision was taken ahead of this weekend's final round of regular season games.

The most likely case in which a neutral venue would be used is if the Bills (12-3) and the Kansas Chiefs (13-3) reached the AFC Championship game having both either won or both lost their final regular season game.

If the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) defeat Cincinnati this weekend and the Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) beat the Denver Broncos, the venue for a possible wildcard game between the Ravens and Bengals would be determined by a coin toss.

"We believe this is a focused approach that will only affect four teams, and directly address the potential for competitive inequity resulting from 30 teams playing 17 games and two playing 16 games," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Friday.

"It was critical for the owners to vote today so that clubs know going into this weekend what they're playing for," he added.

But Bengals coach Zac Taylor was critical of the decision.

"As far as I'm concerned, we just want the rules to be followed," Taylor said in comments reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"When a game is cancelled, you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don't have to make up rules. It seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and just negatives for us," he added.

None of the changes impact the NFC Conference, where all teams will have completed their full 17 regular season games.

The winners of the AFC and NFC Championship games will meet in the Super Bowl on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

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