Bengals are seething after an mid-season rule change exposes them to the luck of a coin toss

The outcome of the NFL Competitions Committee’s playoff proposal vote had not even been announced, and the Bengals were seething.

“Let’s fix it the right way and f—in’ win,” said center and team captain Ted Karras.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was just as angry but less profane as he rose to the league.

“As far as I’m concerned, we just want the rules to be followed and if a game gets canceled just go to odds to sort it all out so we don’t have to invent the rules,” Taylor said. “There are several instances this season where the club is being fined or people are being fined in our building and we are being told to follow the rules. It’s in black and white in the rules. So now when we point out the rules and you’re told we’re going to change that, I don’t want to hear anything about fair and just.”

If the Ravens beat the Bengals on Sunday and the teams are scheduled to play a wild card game against each other, the location for that game would be determined by a coin toss based on the approved rule change.

NFL competition chairman Rich McKay, the CEO and president of the Falcons, said the league chose to ignore and change the rule on the books because it failed to consider the unique context of the situation.

The core of the Bengals’ anger at the rule change is that after the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game, the Bengals were named AFC North Division champions but were not guaranteed a home playoff game, despite the fact that the 2022 Member Club Policy Manual clearly outlines a Rules for canceled games:

“If a game is called off, a team’s rank in its division or conference (e.g., qualifying as a wild card in the playoffs or position in the playoff seeding) will be determined based on its final record. If required, playoff tiebreakers will be calculated based on the average per game for all teams.”

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Even if the Bengals lost to the Ravens for the second time, they would be 11-5 for a .688 win ratio. The Ravens would be 11-6 for a .647 win ratio.

Losing to Bengals doesn’t necessarily mean home field advantage at the whim of a coin toss. That only happens if the Ravens finish as the No. 6 seed. They would move up to No. 5 if they beat the Bengals and the Broncos beat the Chargers.

Still, the mere possibility doesn’t sit well with Taylor, who was asked if he was surprised by the league’s proposal?

“Surprised? No,” he said, disgust showing in his tone.

Taylor was then asked what it was like being on the calls this week and trying to make herself and the team heard. He sighed and paused a full 10 seconds before answering.

“I have to pass this on,” he said.

Adding to the frustration was that the proposal, which the league acknowledged was unfair, offered advantages to some teams but only disadvantages to the Bengals.

“Opportunities lost to us that we could control that we don’t have now,” he said, referring to the team’s status ahead of Monday night’s game, where they were in position to win the AFC No. 1 by defeating the bills and ravens. From a Baltimore perspective, the Ravens lost a chance to win the AFC North outright by beating the Bengals when the Bills-Bengals game was called off.

After the cancellation and issuance of the new proposal, the Bengals don’t even control their own path to No. 2 as they also need the Bills to lose at home to the Patriots for that to happen.

“It seems like there are positives for a lot of teams and only negatives for us,” Taylor said. “So we have the opportunity to play for a coin toss that can only affect us negatively. We don’t have the ability to gamble for a coin toss that affects us positively. Let’s play by the rules again.”

Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn made presentations to the Competitions Committee, of which she is a member, on Thursday night and again to the owners on Friday.

“That’s great,” Taylor said. “(Ownership) has had the back of this team. It’s important for the team to know that because someone has to fight for you. It’s clearly not from the league.”

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The proposal required 24 “yes” votes to pass, and it received 25.

Taylor claimed it was a vote that should never have happened.

“That’s something to address after the season,” he said. “It’s sort of the norm. If you want to vote on rules, change rules, that’s done after the season at the owners’ meetings, which are held in March and May. Doing it now, two days before our game, doesn’t seem like how that should be handled.”

In the Bengals’ locker, the mood oscillated between anger, defiance and resignation.

“I don’t sound right,” wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase said.

“It should never have come to this,” said running back Joe Mixon.

“We’re confident that we can go out there and win a playoff game,” said cornerback Mike Hilton. “We showed that last year. Whether we’re home or not, we still have a job to do.”

While the word “unprecedented” has been thrown around a lot, that’s not the case with Hilton.

“In my junior year, the same situation for a high school playoff game to figure out where we had to play was a coin toss,” Hilton said. “We lost the coin toss, won the game. So I’ve been in situations like this before. It’s different, but you still have to queue and play.”

The only positive to come out of the contest committee’s proposal was that it officially gave the Bengals back-to-back titles for the first time in franchise history, but Karras said he didn’t want to hear that or talk about festive hats and T-shirts .

Unless the Bengals win on Sunday.

“Then I’ll actually wear the hat,” Karras said. “I can barely wait for it. I will take my picture with the hat. I’ll do the whole thing. But it’s not real yet.”

(Photo by Zac Taylor: Kim Klement / USA Today) Bengals are seething after an mid-season rule change exposes them to the luck of a coin toss

Russell Falcon

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