The NFL will not resume Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, the league announced Thursday night, a decision that ends the Ravens’ chase for the AFC North title.
The game was suspended after Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the field. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that Hamlin remains critically ill and in the hospital’s intensive care unit but it appears his neurological function is intact, meaning he can follow commands and move.
Hamlin has shown what physicians treating him are calling “remarkable improvement over the past 24 hours,” the Bills announced Thursday, three days after the 24-year-old player had to be resuscitated on the field.
Although the Ravens cannot win the AFC title, they could, however, host the division champions in a playoff game next week.
Because of an imbalance of schedules, the NFL outlined a few playoff scenarios, will be voted on by the clubs Friday. If the Ravens win and if they are scheduled to play the Bengals in the wild-card round of the playoffs, a coin flip will decide who will host the game.
After the Ravens visit the AFC North champion Bengals in Sunday’s regular-season finale, Baltimore will have played 17 games, while Cincinnati will have played only 16. If the Ravens win that game, they’ll have a lower winning percentage than Cincinnati, but will have defeated the Bengals in both of this season’s meetings.
The Ravens did not know whether their Week 18 game in Cincinnati would carry any significance until Thursday night’s announcement, but a few players seemed unperturbed by the notion of it being a meaningless game.
“I think you’ve got to control what you can control,” safety Marcus Williams said. “We’re going into the game just playing our best ball and getting that momentum going into the next game and whatever happens, happens. That’s an unfortunate event. So we’ve just got to take it how it is and continue to get ready for this game.”
Running back J.K. Dobbins said it would not matter if a division title was not on the line.
“We’re competitors,” he said. “We just want to win. I know I do.”
Right tackle Morgan Moses pointed out that he will be playing in just his third NFL postseason since the Washington Commanders selected him in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft.
“It’s no reason to be upset,” he said. “Look, we’re blessed to have a game this week, and we’re blessed to be in the playoffs next week. That’s most important. You can’t [be] down on the things that you can’t control. It’s out of our hands, and it’s our job to execute on Sunday, and whoever we play next week, we’ll execute on that. That’s my mindset, and I think that’s a lot of guys’ mindsets. Just focus on what’s in front of us.”
The Ravens would either claim the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the following weekend’s AFC playoffs depending on how the Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) fare against the host Denver Broncos (4-12).
If the Ravens are the No. 5 seed, they would face the AFC South champion — either the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) or the Tennessee Titans (7-9) — on the road. If they are the No. 6 seed, they could potentially host the Bengals or face Cincinnati on the road for the second consecutive week.
With the AFC North title no longer at stake, the Ravens could elect to bench many of their starters against Cincinnati to ensure their availability for the postseason. With quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (sprained PCL in left knee) and Tyler Huntley (right wrist and right throwing shoulder) dealing with injuries, undrafted rookie Anthony Brown could make his first career start Sunday.
Other starters such as defensive tackle Calais Campbell (knee) and cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) might also be in line to get some extra rest.
Dobbins, who missed six games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in October, didn’t argue with the notion that the starters could be benched Sunday.
“Look, it’s all up to the coaches and to God,” he said. “So if I don’t play, if I do play, I’ll be ready.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.