The idea of an eight-team AFC playoff has been touted as a possible solution to the NFL not having time to finish the suspended Bills-Bengals Week 17 game, which would obviously have a huge impact for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The AFC’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage between division winners Buffalo and Kansas City, along with who will win the AFC North between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, all hang in the balance of the unfitted contest.
The NFL could push the playoffs back a week to accommodate finishing the Week 17 game that was suspended when Bills safety and Pittsburgh native Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field on Monday night.
The Chiefs, Bengals and Bills all could claim the No. 1 seed, based on what happens in Week 18. With no time left in the NFL schedule, the chances of the Bills-Bengals game being made up seem slim.
So what can be done? One of the suggestions is that none of those teams will get a bye, and the NFL could add an eight team to the AFC playoffs. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio suggested that solution, which would obviously dramatically increase the Steelers’ possibility of making the postseason.
As things stand, the Steelers need the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots both to lose in Week 18, plus have the Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns. If the AFC playoffs have eight teams, the Steelers would only need one of those two things to happen in order to qualify.
Compared to other potential solutions to the problem, the added Wild Card round game would allow the NFL to replace the game that ABC/ESPN lost when Monday’s game was suspended. The other options Florio and others have suggested include calling the game a tie, and providing for a neutral-site AFC Championship Game if it comes down to the impacted teams.