Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley compared it to a scene from “Friday Night Lights.”
If the Ravens defeat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and earn an immediate rematch in the wild-card round of the playoffs, the host would be determined by a coin flip, according to a plan approved Friday by NFL owners.
The plan represented the league’s attempt at a fair resolution after it declared last Monday’s game between the Bengals and Buffalo Bills a no contest in the wake of Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field.
Ravens players and coaches seemed more bemused than riled up about the unusual scenario, which gives them no shot to win the AFC North but keeps home-field advantage on the table.
“It wasn’t something that as a coach, we really had time to be involved with,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We were working on the game planning and preparation. I think that was at a league level. The thing I appreciated and the way I understand it, the No. 1 consideration was Damar Hamlin, his health and his family. And that’s why the game was originally postponed and then eventually canceled. And then after that, there’s 100 considerations in terms of logistics, competitive fairness, the fans, all the partners involved. All of those things, I’m sure, were taken into account.”
Huntley made the comparison to the famous scene from real life, literature and screen in which the Permian Panthers earned a spot in the Texas state playoffs via coin flip. “I think it’s crazy,” he said. “God willing, when we win, that’ll put everything into process. … We’ve just got to go handle business and win this one.”
Safety Kyle Hamilton agreed: “It’s unique, obviously, because of what happened, but at the end of the day, it’s control what you control. I was talking with one of our teammates going to practice, I was like, ‘Does it really matter? Because we’re 5-3 at home and away this year.’ If we’re at home, then great. If we’re not, then that’s fine, too.”
The Bengals, who could make all this moot by beating the Ravens on Sunday, were less satisfied with the resolution. Several reports out of Cincinnati said team officials lobbied owners of other franchises to vote against the proposal.
“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor told Cincinnati reporters Friday. “When a game is canceled, you just turn to winning percentage to clarify everything so we don’t have to make up rules.”
Harbaugh added that the Ravens are weighing the possibility they’ll play the Bengals again in the wild-card round as they decide on a game plan for Sunday.
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“We’re going to play this thing for short-term and long-term considerations,” he said. “You really can’t sit too many guys out. It’s not the preseason. You don’t have an unlimited number of guys. So it’s not as big of a deal as it’s sometimes made out to be. But our plan is to go up there and win the football game, do the best we can to win the football game. I’m sure the Bengals are going to be looking at it the same way, and I’m sure it will be a hard-fought game.”
Ravens at Bengals
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Bengals by 10