If Kansas City and Buffalo win this weekend, the two teams will play each in Atlanta for a Super Bowl berth. And know that the NFL probably is looking at the neutral site idea for future conference championships.
The league needed to have an alternate plan for its AFC championship game because of what happened with Damar Hamlin, Jan. 2. Hamlin, the Bills safety, suffered cardiac arrest during the first quarter of his team’s road game with the Bengals. Hamlin nearly died on the field. And after he was rushed to a downtown Cincinnati hospital, the league suspended play and sent the teams home.
The NFL soon canceled the game, which had huge playoff implications. Because Buffalo and Kansas City both were competing for the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket before the game was canceled, the NFL opted to make the conference championship a neutral site affair id both teams made it.
On Friday, the NFL sent out a press release touting how many people bought tickets. So far, more than 50,000 have purchased tickets for a game that may or may not even be played. The league pointed out that fans of the Chiefs and Bills would have their own side of the stadium.
Super Bowl is a Neutral Site, So Why Not Conference Championship Games?
And it also didn’t take long to realize the league may figure out a way to increase revenue with neutral site championships going forward. The Super Bowl always is a neutral site game, with cities sending in bids years ahead. However, for the past two years, the eventual winners did have a home field advantage. Tampa Bay won at its own stadium. So did the Los Angeles Rams.
CBS Sports suggested that the NFL may want to pick a city for a Final Four kind of playoff weekend. Both the NFC and AFC would play its championship on the same field two weeks before the Super Bowl.
Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk brought some historical context to the neutral site chatter. He said that the late Lamar Hunt, who owned the Kansas City Chiefs, always pushed for these games. But Hunt’s fellow owners never embraced the idea.
But Florio said times are changing. Quickly. He wrote: “It doesn’t feel like an if. It seems like a when. And if the Bills and Chiefs meet in Atlanta and it goes as well as the NFL hopes, when could be as soon as next year.”