All AFC Roads Lead To Indianapolis, God Help Us
9:34 AM EST on January 6, 2023
With multiple avenues available to screw up the AFC playoff scenarios, the NFL found the path of least feh, and there's something creditable in that. Given that it is our sworn duty to avoid such commendations to the family of reptiles that is the NFL, we leave that to more sycophantic observers, but facts are facts. Given a set of arcane potential scenarios that grew in absurdity, the league chose an avenue it usually avoids at all costs: simplicity.
It respected the suspension and declared the cancelation of Monday's Damar Hamlin game, an excellent option given that so much noble behavior sprang from such a terrible event. It acknowledged that seeking fairness at the expense of humanity is sometimes not worth the effort. So really, the only quibble we can fairly level is that they were a little tardy on suspending the game in the first place, and even there the coaches and players took care of that for them by simply dropping tools and walking off.
But, and you knew there would be one, there is still this little tar-spreader's insole in the soup pot. The AFC championship game may be played at a neutral site if it involves a combination of Buffalo, Cincinnati, or Kansas City, and the neutral-site scenarios are largely unappealing because they will inevitably involve domed stadiums. You know, the places where the weather doesn't go.
From the NFL:
The AFC Championship Game could be played at a neutral site if:
Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both win or tie in Week 18 + both teams advance to the AFC title game.
Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both lose + Cincinnati (11-4) also loses or ties in Week 18 + Buffalo and Kansas City advance to the AFC title game.
Buffalo (12-3) and Kansas City (13-3) both lose + Cincinnati (11-4) wins + the AFC title game is either Bills-Chiefs or Bengals-Chiefs.
Let's be honest here. It's January. The weather sucks, particularly this year as the globe continues to mete out its revenge on the rampant billions of unencumbered shitheads who have ravaged it. But January football screams out for snowdrifts deep enough to swallow and flash-freeze the halftime show, and rain like pissed-off Indonesia, and winds out of Satan's colon at 8,000 mph. What we want as a nation of viewers is Josh Allen to say, "I can't see downfield! I can't see my center! I can't see my feet. I can't feel my feet! Let's party!"
Kansas City can also create hideous meteorology, and Cincinnati still has the famous miunus-69-degree wind-chill AFC title game of 1982 to fall back on if tiebreakers are needed. But no, the NFL couldn't help itself on this one. Searching for the illusion of neutrality, it came up with antiseptic. Instead of shirtless Bills fans trying to jump through and then getting stuck to metal picnic benches, we get people in khakis and cardigans wondering where the hell the Denny's got to.
We get three scenarios upon which the owners will vote today, all of which end in the dreaded words "neutral site," and that conjures thoughts of (we'll pause here while you glug down a bottle of Pepto and prepare your guts for the worst) Indianapolis (and even with the Pepto you're still fouling that wastebasket under your desk).
Yes, Indianapolis, home of the combine, home of the Colts, and home of such bad football juju that it can only ruin the game. It is not a destination for other NFL fans; it is barely a destination for people from Terre Haute. It's the home of Jim Irsay, the man who gave you Jeff Saturday. An AFC title game in Indianapolis is essentially the Gasparilla Bowl on Prozac.
But while Indianapolis is the logical choice based on it being centrally located among the three affected cities, it isn't the only unappealing option. There are also the homes of other non-playoff teams, as we are ruling out Dallas, Minnesota, and Los Angeles for possible conflicts, and Los Angeles in particular because the in-house attendance would be 392:
DETROIT: Another popular neutral-site game which is closer to Cincinnati and Buffalo and farther away from Kansas City, but let's be honest—if Dan Campbell isn't there, football shouldn't be there.
ATLANTA: Close to nobody, and they're still disinfecting from the Falcons. Who wants to walk into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, see the Marcus Mariota mural, and want to keep going?
GLENDALE: Home of the Cardinals and far away from all three teams. But you could have stopped at "Home of the Cardinals."
HOUSTON: Jesus on two sticks, man, what could you be thinking?
NEW ORLEANS: Visions of blown generators still dance in our heads.
And the MF of them all, LAS VEGAS: It would be perfect except that it is way too far a schlep for Buffalo and Cincinnati and not much better for Kansas City, plus it would be tangentially rewarding Mark Davis for outwitting them in his departure from Oakland, and the league would rather dedicate a wing in Canton to Bugsy Siegel than do that. Plus, the Raiders have cooties.
So yeah, Indianapolis, undeserving and unappealing as it might be, looks like the favorite in a bad field of $3,000 claimers. And the second is Washington, D.C., because the Caps and Wizards are out of town and the only other thing going on there on Jan. 29 is the 181st vote for Speaker of the House.