KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s plenty of football to play before the AFC Championship game but the conclusion of the NFL regular season sets up a potentially unprecedented possibility of the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills playing the title game on a neutral site.
Head coach Andy Reid said he was “tunneled in on” preparing his team to play the Las Vegas Raiders in the season finale rather than considering the debate focusing on how to resolve the issue of the no-contest between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.
“My main focus was trying to make sure we stayed focused on that game on a short week so I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about where we were playing or not playing down the road,” Reid said during his Monday press conference.
Reid said he deferred to team chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, president Mark Donovan and general manager Brett Veach to handle the conversations on resolving the issues of competition and equity in the playoff picture.
“We’ve got work on getting there, and that was more of a job the people I mentioned there to do, and I thought they did a good job with it,” Reid said.
The no-contest result came about after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during the game. Hamlin was released from the University of Cincinnati on Monday and allowed to return home to Buffalo, the latest in a series of positive developments in his health status.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said concern for Hamlin far outweighed any concerns about the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs of the site of the conference title game.
“It’s a situation that we never have encountered before,” Mahomes said. “But at the of the day, man, I was so happy that Damar was doing better and that’s the most important stuff.”
The NFL clubs passed a resolution Friday endorsing scenarios addressing the potential of a neutral site championship game between the Chiefs-Bills and Chiefs-Bengals as well as resolving the site of a potential Wild Card game between Cincinnati and Baltimore impacted by the no-contest.
As a result, the Chiefs landed the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs based on winning percentage. But since the no-contest denied Buffalo an opportunity to claim the No. 1 seed, a potential matchup between the two teams will be played on a neutral site yet to be determined.
Safety Justin Reid views the situation simply.
“We can’t control any of those extenuating circumstances,” Justin Reid said. “We can’t control where we will play, when we will we play, the only thing we control is how we play and to be ready for that moment whenever that happens.”
For that scenario to occur, Buffalo must beat the Miami Dolphins in a Sunday Wild Card matchup as well as a Divisional Round game in Buffalo the falling week. The Chiefs have a bye this weekend but would need to win a Divisional Round game at home in two weeks to make the title game. If the Chiefs face any other club in the AFC Championship game, that matchup will take place at Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes said he didn’t think any resolution would be fair for everyone but said he’s OK with any eventuality.
“We were ready to do whatever scenario was going to happen,” Mahomes said, “If that was neutral site, if that was going there, whatever it was, man, we were just ready to go out there and play. But we have to win our first game first, and so we’ll just worry about whoever we play in that first round for us.”
And that’s where the No. 1 seed and first-round bye becomes a significant advantage according to Justin Reid.
It’s fortunate for us that we were able to get the No. 1 seed,” he said. “That’s something that we aimed for at the beginning of the season, so congratulations to our team on being able to do that. Wherever we end up playing next, however, these scenarios play out, wherever that location and time is, we’re going to get ready to play and we’re going to play.