Bills-Bengals canceled, AFC title game could be played at neutral site

The Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game will not be resumed and has been canceled, the league announced on Thursday.

The game was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on Monday night. Ultimately, according to the Bills, Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored on the field. He was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. According to the Bills, Hamlin remains in the ICU in critical condition and continues to show signs of improvement. 

According to the statement from the league, here are the key factors that went into the decision to cancel the game.

-Not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game to its conclusion will have no effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the postseason and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game.

-It would require postponing the start of the playoffs for one week, thereby affecting all 14 clubs that qualify for postseason play.

-Making the decision prior to Week 18 is consistent with our competitive principles and enables all clubs to know the playoff possibilities prior to playing the final weekend of regular season games.

Because cancelling the game between the Bills and Bengals creates potential competitive inequities in certain playoff scenarios, the NFL added the following provisions regarding the AFC title game:

The AFC Championship Game will be played at a neutral site if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the number one seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season. Those circumstances involve Buffalo or Cincinnati qualifying for the game as a road team and are listed below:

Scenario 1:

Buffalo and Kansas City 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.

Regarding the Ravens/Bengals this Sunday:

If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati in Week 18 it will have defeated Cincinnati, a divisional opponent, twice but will not be able to host a playoff game because Cincinnati will have a higher winning percentage for a 16-game schedule than Baltimore will for a 17-game schedule. 

If Baltimore defeats Cincinnati and if those two clubs are schedule to play a Wild Card game against one another, the site for that game would be determined by a coin toss. If Cincinnati wins the Week 18 game or if Baltimore and Cincinnati are not scheduled to play one another in the Wild Card round, the game sites would be determined by the regular scheduling procedures.

Giants’ Barkley on Hamlin: ‘Just pray for his family, pray for him, pray for the guys over in Buffalo’

On Monday night, the NFL world was stunned when, after making a tackle on Bengals WR Tee Higgins, Bills safety Damar Hamlin stood up and collapsed. 

According to the Bills, Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, and his heartbeat was restored on the field. He was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. According to the Bills, Hamlin remains in the ICU in critical condition with signs of improvement. 

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo from 2018 up to last season, and spent time with Hamlin, says the past few days have been tough. 

“It’s been difficult the last couple days,” Daboll said on Wednesday. “This is a relationship business, and when something like that happens to people that mean a lot to you – or even if you don’t know them, you have just a great amount of respect for (them) – it really doesn’t matter what job you do. But having been around the young man, I know him. I know the type of person he is. Yeah, it’s tough.”

Saquon Barkley, who has a relationship with Hamlin, says what happened to the second-year safety is a mother’s worst nightmare.

“You think about it, you talk about, but when you actually see something like that – it leaves you speechless,” Barkley said. “The first text I got was from my mom. My mom was just saying how bad she feels for Damar’s family. That’s a mother’s; that’s a parent’s worst nightmare. It definitely does put it in perspective. Me having kids seeing that – it’s a physical sport, it’s a game I love to play, but at any given moment, it makes you just appreciate all the little things. Going out to practice, spend time with your family, spend time with your teammates, your friends, and even stuff like this. Any moment, anything can happen.”

Hamlin’s tackle on Higgins was a routine play, which Barkley says often happens in an NFL game.

“It’s tough because it’s a routine play,” he said. “It’s a play that’s happened millions, millions of times. It’s a play that I’ve done millions and thousands of times before. It’s tough. It really is tough. It’s hard to even speak on it. Words can’t really explain how you even feel in that moment. Like I said, I know I sound like a broken record, the only thing you really can do is just pray. Just pray for his family, pray for him, pray for the guys over in Buffalo, all of the people that are impacted by that – even the guys in Cincinnati – and just wish for the best.”

At this point, Barkley’s right, all we can do is pray and wish Hamlin the best.

Playoff scenarios for Week 17 in NFL

As we enter Week 17, five of the seven teams in AEC have clinched(Bills, Chiefs, Ravens, Bengals, Chargers), while in the NFC, four teams(Eagles, Vikings, 49ers, Cowboys).

Below are the playoff scenarios for Week 17 in the NFL:

AFC

CLINCHED:

Buffalo Bills – AFC East division title

Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division title

Baltimore Ravens – playoff berth

Cincinnati Bengals – playoff berth

Los Angeles Chargers – playoff berth

BUFFALO BILLS (12-3)

Week 17 – at Cincinnati (11-4), Monday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN/ABC

Week 18 – vs. New England (7-8)

Buffalo clinches homefield advantage and AFC’s lone first-round bye with:

  1. BUF win + KC loss

CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-4)

Week 17 – vs. Buffalo (12-3), Monday, 8:30 PM ET, ESPN/ABC

Week 18 – vs. Baltimore (10-5)

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division title with:

  1. CIN win + BAL loss or tie OR

  2. CIN tie + BAL loss

MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-7)

Week 17 – at New England (7-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS

Week 18 – vs. New York Jets (7-8)

Miami clinches playoff berth with:

  1. MIA win + NYJ loss or tie OR

  2. MIA tie + NYJ loss + PIT loss or tie

NFC

CLINCHED:

Minnesota Vikings – NFC North division title

San Francisco 49ers – NFC West division title

Dallas Cowboys – playoff berth

Philadelphia Eagles – playoff berth

NEW YORK GIANTS (8-6-1)

Week 17 – vs. Indianapolis (4-10-1), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS

Week 18 – at Philadelphia (13-2)

N.Y. Giants clinch playoff berth with:

  1. NYG win OR

  2. NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + WAS loss or tie

    OR

  3. NYG tie + SEA loss or tie + DET loss or tie OR

  4. NYG tie + WAS loss or tie + DET loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

  5. SEA loss + WAS loss OR

  6. SEA loss + DET loss + GB loss or tie OR

  7. WAS loss + DET loss + GB loss

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (13-2)

Week 17 – vs. New Orleans (6-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX

Week 18 – vs. N.Y. Giants (8-6-1)

Philadelphia clinches NFC East division title with:

  1. PHI win or tie

    OR

  2. DAL loss or tie

Philadelphia clinches homefield advantage and NFC’s lone first-round bye with:

  1. PHI win

    OR

  2. PHI tie + MIN loss or tie

    OR

  3. DAL loss or tie + MIN loss + SF loss or tie

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-8)

Week 17 – vs. Carolina (6-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX

Week 18 – at Atlanta (5-10)

Tampa Bay clinches NFC South division title with:

  1. TB win

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (7-7-1)

Week 17 – vs. Cleveland (6-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX

Week 18 – vs. Dallas (11-4)

Washington clinches playoff berth with:

  1. WAS win + SEA loss + DET loss + GB loss or tie

Giants-Cowboys most-watched NFL game in league history

Thanksgiving and football are perfect together. On Friday, the NFL announced that the Giants-Cowboys showdown was the most-watched NFL regular season game in league history.

The late afternoon game on FOX between the Giants and Cowboys averaged 42.0 million viewers(TV+Digital).

According to the league, The total unduplicated audience across all three games – Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions, New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots vs. Minnesota Vikings – was 138 million – the highest Thanksgiving total audience on record. The 138 million total unduplicated audience number surpasses the previous high of 126 million in 2016 and is up +34% vs. 2021 (103 million).

The average viewership (TV+Digital) across the three games was 33.5 million – the highest Thanksgiving Day NFL average on record. The 33.5 million average viewers surpass the previous high of 32.9 million in 1993 (two games) and is up +6% vs. 2021 (31.6 million).

Jets’ Huff: ‘We’re not the same old Jets’

The New York Jets(6=3) showed the AFC East and the NFL that they can compete with the top teams as they defeated the Buffalo Bills(6-2) 20-17 Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Many are shocked by this win for the Jets, but according to head coach Robert Saleh, he’s not surprised.

“Last week, we felt like we gave one away,” Saleh said after the win. “We practiced well this week. Not that practice ever translates, but I feel like it does. Last week wasn’t demoralizing to anyone. It was like, ‘damn, we are pretty good’ when you’re feeling like you should win football games. There wasn’t a coach or a person in that locker room that didn’t think we were going to be able to get this one done.”

Jets DE Bryce Huff, who had a huge strip-sack of Josh Allen on the Bills’ final drive, says this is not the same old Jets.

“We’re not the same old Jets,” he said. “We’ve got a group of guys here that love to work. We show up to work every day with the same mindset, just get better and go 1-0 on Sunday.”

One of the biggest reasons the Jets got the win was their defense. New York’s defense held the Bills to a season-low 17 points; they held one of the best quarterbacks in football, Allen, without a touchdown pass for the first time this season, and they intercepted him twice. In addition, they sacked Allen five times in this one, and the Pro Bowler completed only 52%(18/34) of his passes.

Coming into this game, the Jets were in the top ten in total defense and sacks, and after two picks on Sunday, they are now second in interceptions. One of the things the players believe makes this defense go is their relationship off the field.

“We really love each other,” Jets corner D.J. Reed said. “We hang out outside of football; everybody’s close-knit, just close, it’s family. I think that’s all we’ve got to go play for each other that hard.”

DE Jermaine Johnson added on the defense: “We really forget the business side of the NFL. It feels like we’re on a high school team, like that’s the camaraderie we got, and we’re just close. Like we hang out outside the building, we have fun when we’re in the building; it’s not just business to us. So, there’s a real-life connection here, and we display it. It’s getting better every Sunday.”

With the Jets trailing 14-10 in the third quarter, New York’s rookie corner Sauce Gardner intercepted Allen, which set up the Jets’ final touchdown and gave the team a lead late in the third. Gardner discussed what he saw on that interception.

“We were in a cover-two concept, to my side,” he said. “The receiver got outside of me, and they had a running back there sat in front of me. It was a running back or receiver; I don’t know. I just, I felt like I had a feel for Josh Allen and the throws he likes to make. So, I was just taking away the throws to the running back; I tried to time it up to make the play.”

Defense wins championships, but that’s not to say the Jets are a championship-caliber team; however, it says because of its defense, New York will be able to compete with some of the better teams in football, and they showed that on Sunday.

Bills OC Daboll gets second interview with Giants

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll  became the first Giants head coach candidate to have a second interview for the position, team team announced Tuesday.

According to the team, the 46-year-old Daboll spent the day at the team’s Quest Diagnostics Training Center and met with team president John Mara, chairman Steve Tisch, senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara and Joe Schoen, who was hired last week as the Giants’ new general manager. He also met with other members of the front office and toured the facility.

Daboll’s first interview was Friday evening via video conference with John Mara, Tisch and Schoen.

The Giants hosted Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for an interview yesterday. The team has also conducted interviews via teleconference with Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday and on Sunday with Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who was the Giants’ defensive backs coach in 2018.

Schoen and Daboll have worked together with the Bills for the last four seasons.

In 2021, Daboll’s offense excelled as Buffalo won its second straight AFC East title with an 11-6 record. The Bills finished third in the NFL with 28.4 points a game and fifth with 381.9 yards a game. Quarterback Josh Allen finished sixth in the league with a franchise-record 409 completions, seventh with 36 touchdown passes and eighth with 4,407 yards. Allen’s favorite target, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, caught 103 passes for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns.

This postseason, the Bills routed New England, 47-17, in a wild card playoff game and lost to the defending AFC champion Chiefs, 42-36 in overtime, on Sunday night in Kansas City in a divisional round game.

In 2020, Daboll was voted the AP’s NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after the Bills finished 13-3 and unseated longtime powerhouse New England atop the division. Allen finished second in the NFL most valuable player voting after setting Buffalo single season franchise records with 4,544 yards, 37 touchdown passes, a 69.2 completion percentage and a 107.2 passer rating.

Daboll has 20 years of NFL coaching experience. He spent 11 seasons with the New England Patriots (2000-06, 2013-16) in a variety of roles and helped the franchise win five Super Bowls (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX and LI). Daboll has been an offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns (2009-10), Miami Dolphins (2011) and Chiefs (2012). He was also the Jets’ quarterbacks coach in 2007-08.

Obviously, Schoen and Daboll know each other very well, so if Schoen believes in Daboll, he’ll probably be the guy for the Giants. 

 

 

Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen has second interview with Giants for vacant GM position

Joe Schoen today had his second interview for the Giants’ vacant general manager position, the team announced Monday.

Schoen is the first candidate to have a second interview.

According to the team, Schoen met with president John Mara, chairman Steve Tisch and senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara at the team’s Quest Diagnostics Training Center. He also sat down with other members of the team’s front office and toured the facility.

The Buffalo Bills’ assistant general manager, Schoen has 20 years of scouting and executive experience in the NFL, including the last five in Upstate New York. He joined the Bills in 2017 after spending most of the previous decade in the Miami Dolphins’ front office, including the last four as the team’s director of player personnel.

Schoen’s first year in Miami was 2008 when he began a five-year stint as one of the Dolphins’ national scouts before spending the 2013 season as their assistant director of college scouting.

The 42-year-old Schoen led Miami’s preparation, assessment and acquisition of potential professional and collegiate free agents. He was heavily involved in Miami’s NFL draft, including evaluation and draft board construction while also serving as a key liaison between the coaching staff and personnel staff.

The Giants are looking to hire a general manager and coach after GM Dave Gettleman retired and the team fired head coach Joe Judge.

Heinicke hopes to keep the momentum going against Buffalo

The Taylor Heinicke show rolls into Buffalo(1-1) as the Washington Football Team(1-1) battles the Bills on Sunday.

Heinicke, who led Washington on a game-winning drive against the Giants last Thursday, will make his third career start on Sunday, but unlike his other starts, this game will be on the road, and he’s excited about the challenge.

“It’ll be my first road game starting like you said, but it’s at Buffalo with fans, so it’s going to be loud,” Heinicke said on Tuesday. “There’s going to be some silent count stuff that we’re working on this week. It’s a good defense, and we’re excited for the opportunity and the challenge.”

Against the Giants, Heinicke threw for 346 yards, two touchdowns, interception, which got him a lot of attention last week; Heinicke, who was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015, doesn’t want last week’s success to impact his play against Buffalo.

“My biggest thing is I don’t want the success from last week to equal the non-success of this week if that makes sense,’ he said. “Sometimes, a lot of people get caught up in how they played the previous week, and it hurts them the next week. So, we had a long weekend, it was nice to enjoy it, but once Sunday and Monday came around, it was time for Buffalo. So again, the biggest thing is to keep doing it every week, and that’s the goal.” 

If Heinicke can continue to play well, the 28-year-old could be Washington’s quarterback of the future, which could put him in line for some endorsement deals, like promoting Heiniken beer, which he said he enjoys drinking.

“I’m trying, man; I’m trying,” Heinicke said about trying to get a Heiniken endorsement deal. “At some point, I might just start calling out Bud Light (joking)…

“My agent said that they had sent me a 24-pack at home, never received it. And they said they can’t deliver to my address when there’s a gas station a block away that has Heineken.”

Obviously, the endorsements won’t come if he’s not playing well. However, if he can keep it going, this would be a great story, and while beating the Giants is good, defeating Buffalo on the road would be even better for Heinicke and Washington. 

Bills Stadium will have new name after naming rights deal

The Buffalo Bills announced today that Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York will be the new naming rights partner for Bills Stadium. Effective immediately, the home of the Bills will now be named Highmark Stadium.

“We are proud to welcome Highmark to the Buffalo Bills family and we are thrilled to partner with them on a new naming rights deal for our stadium,” said Kim Pegula, Owner/President of the Buffalo Bills. “We are confident that Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York is committed to maintaining their status as a healthcare and philanthropic leader in our region. We look forward to many years of working together with their team creating great memories at not only NFL football games but at many other health and wellness events and community celebrations.”

“The Bills are a beloved institution in Western New York, and there is no better way for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York to show that we plan to continue to be part of the fabric of this community than through this partnership. Together with our long-time partner, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, we envision this stadium to be an all-encompassing asset for our region and beyond,” said David W. Anderson, CEO, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. “Highmark Stadium is the proud home of the Bills. It will also become home for future events that enhance the health and overall well-being of our community.”

Fans can expect to see the signage transformation completed over the coming months and will be in place by the kickoff of the Bills 2021 season in September.

Bills’ Allen: ‘We gotta find a way to finish in the end zone’

For most of their game against the Jets on Sunday, it was not pretty for the Buffalo Bills, but fortunately for them, there are not any style points for wins in the NFL. Behind six Tyler Bass field goals, the Bills(5-2) defeated the lowly Jets(0-7) 18-10 at MetLife Stadium.

Buffalo’s defense made it a long day for the Jets. After leading the Bills 10-6 at halftime, Buffalo shutout New York in the second half. Ultimately, they sacked Jets QB Sam Darnold six times and intercepted him twice.

On offense, Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw for 307 yards and ran for 61 yards, but they were not able to score touchdowns, which Allen said is on him.

“It was a situational football type of win today,” Allen said after the game. “It took all three phases, but we can do a better job on offense, myself, emphasize there myself. We could do a better job and put some more points on the board and make it easier living for our defense.”

Buffalo had 422 yards of total offense on Sunday, so they could move the ball against New York, but according to Allen, penalties hurt the Bills, and Buffalo finished the game with 11 penalties. 

“i think we did a good job of moving the ball,” Allen said. “Obviously, the stats speak for themselves. We gotta find a way to finish in the end zone. It’s gotta be better on my part. Couple penalties pushed us back and put us in bad a position, and shoutout to T-Bass(Tyler Bass) for obviously making those field goals and getting us the win.”

In the end, a win is a win, and now Buffalo will host the New England Patriots next week.

“It’s a division win,” Allen said. “These aren’t always going to be the prettiest of wins, and we understand that, so we’ll take them when we can get them.”

This was a game Buffalo had to have, and a loss to the jets would have been inexcusable. With the Patriots struggling, and the Dolphins going to a rookie quarterback, it appears the Bills are the class of the AFC East. Now, they must continue to show it as the season progresses.