Detailing potential neutral-site AFC Championship game between Chiefs and Bills: Could this be the future?

Detailing potential neutral-site AFC Championship game between Chiefs and Bills: Could this be the future?

Detailing potential neutral-site AFC Championship game between Chiefs and Bills: Could this be the future?

The potential AFC Championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as part of the league’s fairness proposal given the canceled Bills-Bengals game .

And even though the Chiefs would be the No. 1 seed and the Bills the No. 2 seed, sources told CBS Sports that the game would be treated as a true neutral site game. In fact, expect little operational difference between this potential game and Super Bowl LIII between the Patriots and the Rams, which was held in the same stadium four years ago.

The Chiefs would be designated as the “home” team, so they would choose the jersey color they would wear, and the Bills would call the draw the designated “away” team. But neither team would be in the regular Falcons dressing room, as one will be in the visitors’ dressing room and another in the auxiliary dressing room. This is common for major non-Falcons sporting events like the SEC Championship or the college football playoffs.

Although details are being worked out, the game layout would likely have one end zone painted in Chiefs colors and the other in Bills colors with the NFL shield (or AFC logo) in midfield. . Both teams would receive their own player presentations. When the Bills score a touchdown, “Shout!” would be played like at Highmark Stadium. When the Chiefs score a touchdown, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” would play, just like in Arrowhead.

The Falcons would play the game like a typical home game, but the league would likely put its own major event twist on it. For example, the NFL would likely bring its own PA announcer for the game.

The NFL chose Atlanta as the host in part because it’s nearly equidistant from Buffalo and Kansas City. The stadium has been an emergency site for years for the league, and both the city and the stadium are extremely capable of hosting large events.

The whole need for a neutral site emerged during the last week of the regular season. With the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game following Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on the field, the league had a playoff-related competitive balance issue. The Chiefs, Bills and Bengals entered this Monday night, all vying to be the No. 1 seed.

In a proposal change that narrowly passed, the league created what it saw as a fairer way to conduct the playoffs while accounting for potential competitive inequities. But the Bengals lost their chance against the No. 1 seed in the process.

The Bengals tried to get “no” votes from the other owners, but were ultimately unsuccessful. According to sources, the chiefs abstained from voting on the proposal while the bills voted yes.

The NFL began researching potential neutral sites. It’s unclear what input the Bills had, but a league source said the Chiefs indicated they wanted an outdoor site on natural grass. They ended up getting an indoor grass stadium.

Still, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is one of the best in the league. And it also offers a lot more premium seats than Arrowhead or Highmark, which means more ticket revenue for the game even if it ends up being split between the two teams. (Financial agreements are still being worked out, per source, and each team will receive the same ticket allocation for the potential game.)

The only way the game goes in Atlanta is for the Bills and Chiefs to advance to the AFC Championship Game. If either team loses in the next two weeks, the AFC title game will be played at the stadium of the highest seed.

Several independent sources outside the league office have theorized: what if this game was the start of future neutral-site conference championship games. The league is believed to have opened bidding for the NFL Draft and NFL scouting suit, so could the NFL consider neutral-site title games?

“I don’t think there’s a chance someone won’t say, ‘Hmm, maybe we should think about it,'” a league source said of the hypothetical.

The problems would be that team owners would give away home-court advantage in a game that would take their team to the Super Bowl. The home team can also keep any revenue they would generate from their own premium seats. But each year, only two team owners would be disadvantaged while another 30 would likely receive even more money.

There are also logistical issues. Cities prepare years in advance for the Super Bowl, and Atlanta was available because it’s an unusually slow week for the city and the Falcons didn’t make the playoffs. But knowing which stadium would be absolutely available before the start of the season — or years in advance — for a conference championship would present challenges. What if the city that won the bid had its team playing in its home stadium? There would be a need for several potential venues each year, and that would be a big demand for the league.

With all the potential challenges, however, there are positives to this being the future. If the NFL turned a schedule release into a made-for-TV event, why couldn’t it turn its second biggest games of the year into even bigger events?

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