Crucial NFL decision sets up scenario not seen since 1935

Buffalo Bills, Devin Singletary (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Buffalo Bills, Devin Singletary (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Not since the 1935 NFL season has a regular season concluded without all teams having played in the same number of games. That is set to change.

Amid Damar Hamlin’s continued recovery from the cardiac arrest he suffered following a hit in Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, the NFL slowly but surely shifted its focus to potential rescheduling options for the crucial AFC showdown.

The game was suspended and then postponed with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter, with the Bengals leading the AFC East champions by a score of 7-3.

With just one week remaining in the regular season and the NFL seemingly aiming to avoid altering the playoff schedule, one of the options on the table was simply not continuing the game and declaring it a no contest, which would mean that the AFC playoff seeding would be determined by win percentage.

That is ultimately what the league decided, though they are exploring options to modify homefield advantage and seeding in the AFC as a result of the postseason implications Monday’s game would have had.

The cancellation of this game means that an NFL regular season is set to conclude without all teams having competed in the same number of games.

Such a scenario hasn’t unfolded in 87 years. The 1935 season was just the 16th regular season of the National Football League, and there were just nine teams in the league: five in the Eastern Division and four in the Western Division.

Seven teams played 12 games, but a game between the Boston Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles was canceled due to inclement weather. As a result, those two teams both ended the year having only competed in 11 games.

Ironically, had that game not been canceled, the 1935 season would have been the first to finish with all teams having competed in the same number of games. It wasn’t until the 1936 season when the standardization of the league’s schedule was formalized.

In 1936, all teams played 12 games. From 1937 to 1942 and again in 1946, they all played 11. From 1943 to 1945, they all played 10.

A 12-game schedule was reintroduced in 1947 and used through 1960 before the schedule expanded to 14 games. In 1978, a 16-game schedule was introduced, and in 2021, a 17th game was added.

The 2022 season was set to become the second straight season in which all 32 teams played 17 games, but the NFL’s decision on the Bills vs. Bengals game changed that.

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