Hamlin Continues To Recover As The NFL Lays Out Plan To Finish the Season

Buffalo Bills defensive end Damar Hamlin is reportedly doing much better following his on-field health scare last Monday. As he continues to improve, the NFL has made a decision regarding how to handle that Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals and how to move forward with the postseason layout.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a press release. The league has decided how to proceed with the season following the medical emergency Buffalo Bills defensive end Damar Hamlin suffered on the field Monday. (Image: Associated Press)

After Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field that night, the NFL suspended play as it figured out a new course of action. The league then sought an alternative plan of attack to try to bring a fair and equitable solution to the teams and players that have fought hard all season.

In an announcement from Thursday night, NFL brass stated that the Bills-Bengals game from Monday night will not be played. The league will officially mark it as a canceled game and is now putting together the final pieces to a convoluted and complicated puzzle.

The Show Must Go On

Hamlin is now awake and moving his extremities on his own. He cannot yet talk, but his first concern after waking up, according to a Bills statement, was if the Bills won their game against the Bengals.

He will likely have to endure a long recovery process; however, his mental fortitude and competitive spirit will come in handy. While he remains in intensive care, doctors say that he is showing “good neurologic recovery.”


The NFL has to move forward, and explained in its announcement, which had previously been shared with all teams, that there is no reason to play the game. The outcome would have had no impact on postseason qualification, only seeding.

As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “I recognize that there is no perfect solution. The proposal we are asking the ownership to consider, however, addresses the most significant potential equitable issues created by the difficult, but necessary, decision not to play the game under these extraordinary circumstances.”

If the league had decided to put the game back on the schedule, it would have potentially altered almost the entire schedule between now and the Super Bowl on February 12. Therefore, and because the outcome doesn’t play a role in postseason participation, removing it from the schedule makes the most sense.

What It Means To Bettors

While Hamlin’s health ranks highest, there are still important considerations that have to be taken into account when calling a game suspended, canceled or complete. This is especially true in the sports betting ecosystem, as it makes a difference when it comes time to pay out bets.

A suspended game leaves the bets in limbo, with no money moving forward or backward. However, a canceled game can lead to refunds, depending on the time of the cancelation.

Most reputable sportsbooks list 55 minutes of play as a “completed” game in order to calculate moneyline and certain other payouts. Less than that, the bets are voided and bettors receive a refund.

The bets that stand would be prop bets, such as who scored the first TD or the result of the first drive of the game or a team. In other words, anything that could have been successfully completed before the stoppage of the game.

The schedule change could also affect some futures bets, but not all. For example, the Bills and the Bengals, before the start of the season, had win totals of 11.5 and 10, respectively, on DraftKings. Both surpassed those marks before the cancellation, so any bets stand.

Any futures bets on AFC seeding remain in limbo, however. Their status will depend on how the NFL moves forward and how the Bills and Chiefs do this weekend.

More Clarity Coming

The cancellation of the game is only one part of the equation – there still has to be a determination on how to manage the AFC championship game. NFL team reps will discuss where to hold that game today, according to the NFL’s statement.

That decision will have to take into account additional factors. A neutral site for the championship game would be the option if several criteria were met. These include:

  • If the two teams participating in the championship game didn’t play the same number of games (i.e., one played 17 and the other played 16)
  • Both teams could have taken the number-one seed in the conference
  • Both teams could have hosted the game if all conference teams played full, 17-week seasons

Taking those considerations into account, several possible scenarios emerge, per the NFL’s announcement:

Scenario 1

Buffalo and Kansas City Chiefs both win or both tie – a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.

Scenario 2

Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties – a Buffalo vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.

Scenario 3

Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins – a Buffalo or Cincinnati vs. Kansas City championship game would be at a neutral site.

Not Done Yet

But, there are still other considerations for the postseason layout. The Bengals play the Baltimore Ravens this weekend, and the outcome of that game could change the path for the AFC once more.

Should the Ravens win, they will have beaten the Bengals, an AFC North rival, twice. Therefore, technically, they should rank higher in the division.

However, the Bengals, having played one less game after the Week 17 cancelation, will have a better winning percentage based on 16 games than the Ravens with 17 games. Therefore, the Bengals would take the division.

In addition, if the Ravens win and would subsequently meet the Bengals in a Wild Card game, the NFL would determine the location of that game through a coin toss. On the other hand, if the Bengals win or if the two don’t play each other in the Wild Card round, the location of the postseason games will follow their normal paths from the regular season rankings.

The Bills still have a chance to take the top seed in the AFC. They face the New England Patriots on Sunday and that win, plus a loss by the Chiefs against the Las Vegas Raiders tomorrow, puts them on top.

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