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What are the playoff implications if Bills-Bengals is declared a tie or vacated?

The NFL has not yet decided on what to do with the Bills-Bengals game that was suspended in Week 17. We break down what happens if it is not restarted.

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on January 1, 2023 in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Wednesday update: According to Pro Football Talk, the NFL is leaning towards not resuming the Bills-Bengals game and will determine the seedings based on win percentages after Week 18. The Bills and Bengals will technically benefit from this sort of arrangement, as they would have a higher win percentage by playing one fewer game than teams with the same number of wins but a full 17 games under their belt.


The NFL is still deciding how to handle the Week 17 game that was tragically cut short when safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field. The game itself remains secondary on all levels, but the NFL will likely make a decision soon as to how they will handle the logistics. They could end up replaying the game after Week 18 or declaring it a tie or vacating it completely.

If the game is replayed, the playoff scenarios remain basically the same as before, but with some slight changes due to timing. If they end up declaring it a tie or vacating the game, more playoff scenarios get locked in. Here are the possible scenarios:

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs secure the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye with a win over the Raiders on Saturday. If they were to lose, they’d get the No. 1 seed only if the Bills lost to the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills would need the Chiefs to lose to the Raiders on Saturday and then beat the Patriots on Sunday to secure the No. 1 seed. If the Chiefs win and the Bills win, Buffalo would be the No. 2 seed. If the Bills lose and the Bengals win, it gets a little more complicated. They would be tied at 12-4, which means we would go to the tiebreaker rules. They would have the same conference record and the same record against common opponents. The next tiebreaker would be strength of victory. That would be impacted by the full Week 18 schedule, so we don’t know who would claim that tiebreaker.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals would take the AFC North title, but no longer have a shot at the No. 1 seed. They’d be guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed, but also have a shot at the No. 2 seed. The above Bills scenario details the tiebreakers involved if the Bengals win on Sunday and the Bills lose.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens would no longer have a chance at the AFC North championship and thus would have to settle for a wild card berth. They head into the weekend with the No. 6 seed. If Baltimore loses or they win and the Chargers win, Baltimore would be the No. 6 seed. If they win and the Chargers lose, Baltimore would be the No. 5 seed.