AFC Championship game neutral site plan for Bills vs. Chiefs

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Wait, where is the AFC Championship game taking place? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Football fans across America woke up Friday asking variations of the same question: What is going on with the AFC playoff picture? And, where is the AFC Championship game taking place this month? The game could be Arrowhead Stadium or Highmark Stadium or Paycor Stadium based on a number of 2023 playoff scenarios. But we do know one thing, the AFC Championship will be held at a neutral site this year -- following a decision NFL owners made on Friday afternoon.

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The AFC’s No. 1 seed could go to the Chiefs, if they beat the Raiders on Saturday. But that simple outcome won’t account for a discrepancy in the number of games played, with the Bills and Bengals set to play a 16-game season following the NFL’s decision to cancel the two teams’ Week 17 contest after Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest in the first quarter after making a tackle on Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins. Hamlin, who has shown signs of improvement at the University of Cincinnati's Medical Center this week, remains the top focus league-wide as play resumes this weekend.

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It’s been a busy week logistically for the NFL. It’s unlikely they will name an AFC Championship game neutral site over the next 48 hours so let’s speculate on where the game could be played if the right scenarios end up shaking out where it is indeed the Chiefs and Bills for the third time in 13 months. Here are five possible locations for the AFC Championship game at a neutral site:

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

That’s right, Jerry World. It doesn’t get much more neutral for AFC teams to play in an NFC stadium. Kansas City in theory would have a much shorter trip to this venue but there have been too many memorable football games played on this track for the league not to consider it at the top of the list.

It would excite a lot of fans to have a rematch of the 2022 Divisional Round classic at AT&T Stadium. An added bonus: The Dallas Cowboys are likely to be the NFC’s No. 5 seed and won’t be hosting any playoff games on their potential path to Super Bowl 57. 

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Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida

The site of Super Bowl 55 comes to mind as a possibility for a few reasons. It’s an NFC venue like Dallas, and it’s equidistant for the Bills and Chiefs to travel if they were to meet on Sunday, Jan. 29.

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Unlike in Texas, this game won’t have roof protection – however, the weather is a lot more predictable in Florida this time of the year than, say, Buffalo. 

The Bucs, like the Cowboys, are very unlikely to host the NFC Championship game unless that side of the NFL playoff bracket goes haywire. This is a good possibility – both the Chiefs and Bills have played on this field in the past two seasons, so there’s a bonus familiarity factor.

SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, California

The site of last year’s Super Bowl has to be mentioned as a possibility – not only because it’s a neutral NFC stadium, but also because it has hosted so many big games since opening its doors in September 2020.

In just a few days time, Los Angeles will be the site of the 2023 national championship in college football – why not add the AFC Championship to the list of big-time football events taking place on that turf this year.

Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

The seven-time Super Bowl host would be a regional advantage to the Chiefs given the proximity to Kansas City but it can’t be denied that the Superdome is one of the better choices available for NFL schedule makers as they begin to formalize their January 2023 plans.

The Saints were eliminated from playoff contention so no need to worry about logistics surrounding the NFC Championship game.

Oh, and the 2025 Super Bowl will be played here. Is there a better primer to promote one of the NFL’s better venues?

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia 

This would be my pick for the AFC Championship game neutral site. It’s the best in terms of distance, and there’s zero chance of it being impacted by the NFC playoff picture.

This is a venue that has hosted national championship games and Super Bowls, like the other four mentioned above, so it has no problem in terms of capacity or track.

If the Bills and Chiefs were to meet here, it would certainly be a locomotive – full steam ahead.