The NFL season came to a crashing halt Monday night as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest, requiring medics to restore his heartbeat on the field. Hamlin remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The Week 17 showdown between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals had the hype and feel of a playoff game before kickoff. ESPN’s Joe Buck labeled it the biggest Monday Night Football game in decades. But it was suspended after tragedy unfolded on the field.
At some point, the league will need to figure out what to do with the postponed matchup and how to handle the playoff implications that were carried by the game. After the tragedy occurred, no one wanted to play or watch football.
The NFL did the necessary thing by suspending the game without having a plan as to how they can finish it. But as the focus justly remains on Hamlin, the NFL is behind-the-scenes discussing when to resume play and how to do it respectfully.
Tuesday morning, Boomer Esiason was on his WFAN radio show with co-host Gregg Giannotti, and the former NFL MVP said he received a text from a source stating the league remains unsure what to do about the suspended game. Esiason did, however, offer what he believes is a likely scenario.
Boomer Esiason believes the NFL may delay Week 18 pic.twitter.com/BMju70DhYE
— Brandon Contes (@BrandonContes) January 3, 2023
“As far as the NFL’s concerned, like I said, this morning, everybody is focused on Damar,” Esiason noted. “That’s the most important thing, that’s what I’ve been told. They will eventually get around to trying to figure out what they options are as they move forward with the regular season for every team.”
Those options include ending the season without resuming the Bills-Bengals game and using both teams’ winning percentages to determine playoff seeding instead. The other option, which Esiason highlighted, utilizes the scheduled week off between championship weekend and the Super Bowl.
“I do know that the week in-between the Super Bowl and the championship games, there’s a chance that everything will take that weekend into account,” Esiason said. “I would think the way that would work, if it did, would mean that there would be no games this weekend. And maybe Cincinnati and Buffalo restart next Monday, that’s a possibility because there’s no Monday night game…Everything’s on the table.”
Ignoring the logistics of needing to make sure every venue is available to placate a significant schedule shift, if the Bills and Bengals want to finish the game, delaying Week 18 and the start of the playoffs seems like the best option. But the scenario of making the Bills and Bengals the only game to play this week also puts both teams under a bigger spotlight.
Asking Bills players to return to Cincinnati just one week after watching their teammate go into cardiac arrest on that very field seems insensitive. Asking Buck, Troy Aikman and Lisa Salters to resume a Monday Night Football broadcast one week after tragedy occurred would also be challenging. If the league wants to finish the game, there is a way to schedule it. But the better question is whether it’s necessary to finish the game.