ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A potential AFC Championship Game between the No. 2-seeded Buffalo Bills and No. 1-seeded Kansas City Chiefs would take place in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the NFL announced Thursday.
The game would take place at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 29. All other potential AFC Championship Game matchups would take place at the home stadium of the higher seed, the league said.
The fact that a potential Bills-Chiefs matchup would be played at a neutral site was already known, but the league had yet to disclose where that location would be. The NFL last week approved a neutral site because of the inequities created by the cancellation of the Week 17 game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals as a result of Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsing on the field and going into cardiac arrest after making a tackle.
Hamlin was released from a hospital Wednesday and is recovering at his home in Buffalo with his family.
“Nothing was going to be fair for anybody, I don’t think. It’s a situation that we never have encountered before,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said Monday regarding a site for the potential matchup. “But at the end of the day, I was so happy that Damar was doing better, and that’s the most important stuff.
“And so him doing better and him being in a better spot, we were ready to do whatever scenario was going to happen. So if that was neutral site, if that was going there [to Buffalo], whatever it was, we were just ready to go out there and play. But we have to win that first game first, so let’s worry about whoever we play in that first round, or that first round for us.”
The Chiefs have a first-round bye and will host the lowest seed remaining in the AFC divisional round on Jan. 21 or Jan. 22. The Bills open the postseason against the Miami Dolphins at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
The neutral site will be used only if both the Chiefs and Bills advance that far, as it was decided by the league that the two teams participating would have to have played an unequal number of games, and both could have been the No. 1 seed had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.
The Bills played only 16 games. Had the Bills-Bengals game been played as expected and the Bills won the final two games of the regular season, they would have earned the No. 1 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker and had a bye this week.
“We are heartened by the continued improvement and progress of Damar Hamlin in his recovery, and Damar and his family remain top of mind for the entire NFL community,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We are also grateful to Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons for agreeing to host the AFC Championship Game in Atlanta should the Bills and Chiefs advance. We thank both of those clubs for their assistance in the planning process.”
As part of standard NFL contingency planning, Atlanta had already been designated as a possible backup host site for postseason games before the start of the 2022 season. The city is almost equidistant from both potential participating teams’ cities.
ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.