Home Field Disadvantage?: How the NFL messed up again. (Editorial)

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Kirsten B

The “Carlisle Crazies” show the importance of home field.

Bryce Wolaver, Staff Writer

The NFL canceled the Bills-Bengals game after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in the first quarter. There is lots of confusion surrounding the decision. Fans are questioning the decision, and believe that it could’ve all been easily avoided.

Typically, the playoffs start a week after the regular season ends. In return, there is a two-week gap in between conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL should have pushed the playoffs back a week, and eliminated one of the off-weeks prior to the Super Bowl.

The league came out with three different scenarios to decide who hosts which playoff games. With the  Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs both winning in week 18, the AFC Championship Game between those two teams was held at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

If the week 17 matchup between Buffalo and Cincinnati was never cancelled, then the Bills/Bengals would have hosted the championship game. Both teams lost their chance, and they will travel to the hardest place to play: Arrowhead Stadium.

Why is this wrong? It’s simple: home field advantage matters. Going back to the last 10 AFC championship games, the home team has won 8 of those 10. 

In 2021 the playoff field was expanded from 6 to 7 teams. When it was a 6-team field, the top two seeds received a first-round bye. With the addition of another team, only the top seed gets the bye. The top seed not only gets a bye to the divisional round, but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. That makes the regular season much more important.

By canceling the game, the NFL took away the Bills and Bengals’ chances to win the #1 seed, and host multiple playoff games. This simply is not fair. The tragic event on that cold Monday night was neither teams’ fault, so they shouldn’t suffer. 

The team that benefitted the most is the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs became the #1 seed, even though they lost to the Bills and Bengals. This means they were able to host wildcard and divisional games,  traveling to play in the championship game. With a neutral field, the tough home crowds that AFC fans provide were taken away. The advantage was taken as well.

The NFL started this mess, and there were simple ways to avoid it. The wild card round should have been pushed back, and the Bills and Bengals should have played their game. A winner should have been decided, as well as the top half of the playoff picture in the AFC. All of the controversy would have been eliminated, and all could have gone on as normal.