Bengals coach Zac Taylor, RB Joe Mixon push back on the NFL’s postseason seeding solution

The fallout from Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s near-fatal medical emergency has had a major and unprecedented impact on the top of the AFC. With Thursday night’s announcement that the Bills’ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals would not be resumed, a resolution affecting AFC playoff seeding and home-field advantages was subsequently unveiled and passed on Friday.

As part of the arrangement, the Bengals will be the AFC North champions by virtue of their superior winning percentage, even though they will have played one less game than the Baltimore Ravens. However, should the Ravens beat the Bengals in their Week 18 matchup to give both teams 11 wins, and if the two teams meet again on Wild Card Weekend, the site of their playoff game will be determined by a coin toss supervised by Roger Goodell.

For the Bengals, the implication is that even with a division title in hand, there is a chance that they will be denied home-field advantage and have to travel to Baltimore to start the playoffs — a scenario that the club and its members did do not hesitate to share their problems with.

In a Twitter post, Bengals running back Joe Mixon called out the NFL for not adhering to its own rulebook, specifically citing the “Competitive Policy for Canceled Games” section of the league’s 2022 policy manual.

Mixon was far from alone in his grievances. According to ESPN, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn — who is on the NFL’s competition committee — urged the committee to vote against the proposal on the basis of the timing of a move away from the standard of winning percentages outlined for the scenario the AFC now faces.

“The proper process for making rule change (sic) is in the off-season,” Blackburn wrote. “It is not appropriate to put teams in a position to vote for something that may introduce bias, favor one team over another or impact their own situation when the vote takes place immediately before the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, while Bengals head coach Zac Taylor stressed that the Bengals can control their own destiny and host a playoff game by winning this weekend, he likewise fumed at how the NFL’s resolution was reached and how it affected his team.

“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed and when a game is canceled that you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make up the rules,” Taylor said. “There’s several instances this season where the club is fined or people in our building are fined and we are being told to follow the rules. It’s black and white in the rulebook.

“So now, when we point out the rules and you are told we are going to change that, I don’t want to hear about fair and equitable when that is the case … Opportunities lost for us that we had a chance to control that now we don’t, fine. But it seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and just negatives for us.”

In a statement by Goodell, the commissioner acknowledged that “there is no perfect solution,” emphasizing how their driving principles had been to limit disruption across the league and minimize competitive inequities.

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