This solution might seem more palatable if the game meant little. But the game is actually quite important for both teams, who are safely in the playoffs but fighting for the No. 1 seed, which comes with a valuable playoff bye. Their finishes also have implications for other teams, notably Kansas City.
The Bills can gain that No. 1 seed if they win the Bengals game as well as their final game of the year on Sunday. The Bengals can also get the slot with two wins, but they would need a Kansas City loss.
If the game is ruled a tie, that would be to the advantage of Kansas City, who would then need only a win on Saturday to grab the No. 1 spot.
Though players, of course, want to do the right thing with respect to Hamlin, they are also a competitive bunch, and when it comes to playoff positioning, teams will want what’s most advantageous for them.
Award the game to the Bengals.
Cincinnati led the game, 7-3, when it was halted and theoretically could be awarded the victory based on that.
This is a particularly unappetizing scenario for several reasons. Barely an eighth of the game was played, making the Bengals’ lead seem trivial. And given the harrowing night faced by the Bills in particular, awarding them a loss seems unduly cruel.
Push the playoffs back.
The N.F.L. has an ace in the hole: There is a week off in the playoff schedule.
The league could push all the playoff games back one week, leaving the weekend of Jan. 14-15, now set for the wild-card round, for the resumption of Bills-Bengals. The playoffs would then start Jan. 21, the bye week would be filled with the conference championship games, and the Super Bowl would be played as scheduled on Feb. 12.