Atlanta's Mercedez-Benz Stadium Would Host Possible Neutral-Site AFC Title Game

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IV

FILE-In this Friday, Sep. 21, 2018, photo, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is seen in this aerial photo in Atlanta. The stadium will be the site of Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Legions of police and federal agents will be protecting the stadium as Atlanta hosts Super Bowl 53, but recent attacks in the U.S. and around the world underscore how terrorists are striking less-secure areas outside sports stadiums, arenas and airports, experts say.(AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File)
AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File

The AFC Championship Game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, if the NFL needs a neutral site for a potential Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs matchup, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Thursday.

Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 first reported on Wednesday that Atlanta was a possibility:

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

"We're hearing that Atlanta is very much in play if there's a neutral site AFC Championship game" ~ <a href="https://twitter.com/SalSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SalSports</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PMSLive?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PMSLive</a> <a href="https://t.co/xivHVc7ZYh">pic.twitter.com/xivHVc7ZYh</a>

"Atlanta is very much in play," Capaccio said on the Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, citing an earlier conversation with Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports Radio. "Maybe New Orleans could be a backup."

NFL owners approved changes to the AFC playoff format last week following the cancellation of the Buffalo Bills' game against the Cincinnati Bengals, after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. Under the current scenarios, an AFC Championship Game between the No. 2-seeded Bills and No. 1-seeded Kansas City Chiefs would be played at a neutral field.

The Indianapolis Colts already turned down the opportunity to host the game at Lucas Oil Stadium, according to Mickey Shuey of the Indianapolis Business Journal. The venue and city have a scheduling conflict with a national volleyball tournament expecting to draw 30,000 people downtown.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has handled numerous neutral games in the past, including Super Bowl LIII after the 2018 season. At the college level, the stadium has become the annual home of the SEC Championship Game and Peach Bowl. It hosted the 2018 national title game and is scheduled to do so again after the 2024 season.

Atlanta also wouldn't give either Buffalo or Kansas City much of an advantage in location.

The Bills must win two games to reach this point, while the Chiefs will face the lowest-ranked team remaining after their first-round bye.