Disappointing loss to the Colts aside, the Dolphins are still in the playoff hunt, and as long as that's the case, I'm going to continue posting weekly playoff probabilities.
If the season were to end today.....(Week 9), here are the standings according to NFL.com
#1 Seed - AFC South champion: Houston Texans (7-1)
#2 Seed - AFC North champion: Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
#3 Seed - AFC East champion: New England Patriots (5-3)
#4 Seed - AFC West champion: Denver Broncos (5-3)
#5 Seed - Wildcard #1: Indianapolis Colts (5-3)
#6 Seed - Wildcard #2: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
Miami is in the hunt at 4-4.
As mentioned in my previous writeup, (see here), the website Football Outsiders collects data about how well a team's offense, defense, and special teams have performed so far, then it adjusts those performances based on the strength of their opponents.
For example, a team that earns 100 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins' elite run defense is rated more highly than a team that earns 100 rushing yards against the Indianapolis Colts' poor run defense, since the Dolphins run defense is much better than the Colts defense.
It then runs computer simulations to "project" how many wins each team will finish the season with based on the strength of their upcoming opponents.
So here are the playoff odds for all the AFC teams, based on Football Outsiders.
Click the image to enlarge.
To sum up, Miami is currently 4-4. On computer simulations of the entire NFL season, the Miami Dolphins' mean number of wins is 8.3, which is down from the 9.4 wins they "projected" a week ago. The projected number of wins has gone down because of Miami's loss to the Colts, which they had projected Miami would win. Losing to the Colts, who are a Wildcard contender, decreased Miami's chance of making the playoffs by over 30% - it was a hugely important game- but Miami is still in the race.
Focusing on the AFC:
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
Projected wins - 10.5
AFC North winner - 51.4% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 40.4% chance
The Steelers are strong favorites to overtake the Ravens for the AFC North, given their recent wins over the Bengals, Redskins, and Giants. If that fails, they likely will claim a Wildcard spot.
Baltimore Ravens (6-2)
Projected wins - 10.1
AFC North winner - 48.4% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 42.3% chance
The Ravens solidified their playoff chances with a win over the Browns, but the Steelers are now viewed as a better team, so the Ravens are seen as more likely to claim a Wildcard spot than the AFC North.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
Projected wins - 6.5
AFC North winner - 0.3% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 4.8% chance
The Bengals have lost to the Dolphins, Ravens, Steelers, Browns, and Broncos. That makes it very difficult for them to claim either the AFC North (with a poor 1-3 division record) or a Wildcard spot (they would lose on tiebreaks to 4 likely AFC playoff teams).
Cleveland Browns (2-7)
Projected wins - 4.5
AFC North winner - 0.0% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 0.1% chance
The Browns are 2-7, and they'll likely be mathematically eliminated after 2 more losses.
Houston Texans (7-1)
Projected wins - 12.0
AFC South winner - 97.8% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 2.0% chance
The Texans are so much better than the rest of their division that they're not a threat to take a Wildcard spot - it's almost guaranteed they win the AFC South.
Indianapolis Colts (5-3)
Projected wins - 7.8
AFC South winner - 2.2% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 23.1% chance
The Colts' probability of making the playoffs skyrocketed by beating the Miami Dolphins. All they have to do to claim a wildcard spot is match Miami's record at the end of the season. Interestingly, Miami is still listed as more likely to earn a Wildcard spot because they project the Colts are less likely to reach 8-8, with 2 games against the Texans, 1 game against the Patriots, and 1 game against the Lions coming up.
Tennessee Titans (3-6)
Projected wins - 5.3
AFC South winner - 0.0% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 0.6% chance
The Titans were blown out by the Bears, and they'll likely be mathematically eliminated after 3 more losses.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)
Projected wins - 3.7
AFC South winner - 0.0% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 0.1% chance
The Jags are 1-6, and they'll likely be mathematically eliminated after 3 more losses.
Denver Broncos (5-3)
Projected wins - 11.0
AFC West winner - 97.4% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 1.4% chance
The Broncos have the only elite quarterback in the worst division in football (AFC West). The rest of their schedule is a joke, so like the Texans, they're near guaranteed to win their division and are not a threat to take a Wildcard spot.
Oakland Raiders (3-5)
Projected wins - 6.3
AFC West winner - 0.5% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 5.6% chance
The Raiders were destroyed by Doug Martin (Muscle Hamster) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dolphins have a head-to-head tiebreak advantage because of Miami's week 2 blowout win. They remain barely in contention for a spot.
San Diego Chargers (4-4)
Projected wins - 7.1
AFC West winner - 2.1% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 16.7% chance
The Chargers' playoff hopes are still alive, and they replace the Raiders as the most likely AFC West contender.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)
Projected wins -3.8
AFC West winner - 0.0% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 0.0% chance
The Chiefs are the frontrunners for the #1 overall pick in the draft. They likely will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs after 2 more losses.
New England Patriots (5-3)
Projected wins - 10.8
AFC East winner - 90.2% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 7.0% chance
The Patriots look increasingly like a lock for the AFC East, as its only challenger (The Dolphins) fell to 0.500. They become a Wildcard team only if Miami overtakes them for the AFC East title.
Miami Dolphins (4-4)
Projected wins - 8.3
AFC East winner - 8.1% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 35.9% chance
The Dolphins blew a huge opportunity to nail down a wildcard spot, BUT they remain favorites to claim the 6th seed wildcard spot so long as they finish the year with 1 more win than the Colts. Two reasons to root for the Colts to lose - gives Miami a Wildcard spot, and makes the Vontae Davis pick more valuable.
New York Jets (3-5)
Projected wins - 6.8
AFC East winner - 1.0% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 11.3% chance
The Jets' hopes are still alive, but they are 2 games behind the Colts and Ravens.
Buffalo Bills (3-5)
Projected wins - 6.8
AFC East winner - 0.6% chance
AFC Wildcard winner - 8.6% chance
The Bills are still alive, but like the Jets, time is running out, and they're 2 games out of a wildcard spot.
So here are the playoff seeds and win-loss records based on the Football Outsiders projections
#1 Seed - AFC South champion: Houston Texans (12 - 4)
#2 Seed - AFC East champion: New England Patriots (11 - 5)
#3 Seed - AFC West champion: Denver Broncos (11 - 5)
#4 Seed - AFC North champion: Pittsburgh Steelers (11 - 5)
#5 Seed - Wildcard #1: Baltimore Ravens (10 - 6)
#6 Seed - Wildcard #2: Miami Dolphins (8.3 - 7.7)
In the Hunt (>5% chance at a Wildcard spot) - Indianapolis Colts (7.8 - 8.2), San Diego Chargers (7 - 9), New York Jets (7 - 9), Buffalo Bills (7 - 9), Cincinnati Bengals (7 - 9), Oakland Raiders (6-10)
A wildcard spot is definitely in reach because Miami can claim it by finishing the year better than the Colts' OR hoping the Colts stumble. I personally think the Colts will finish 9-7, unless they lose in an upset, so Miami needs to win 10 games. That involves beating Titans, Bills, @Bills, and Jaguars, who are all bottom-10 teams.
Miami then has to win 2 of the following 4 - Patriots, @Patriots, Seahawks, @49'ers. Seahawks at home and Patriots at home are our best bets. Miami has not beaten a single playoff team this year, and if Miami can't win 2 of those 4 games against playoff teams, then Miami won't make the playoffs, and won't deserve to be in the playoffs. If Miami goes 1-5 or 0-6 against playoff teams this season (Texans, Colts, Patriots, 49'ers, and Seahawks), I can accept missing out on the playoffs, since we wouldn't be ready to compete.
2-4 or better against playoff teams is all Miami needs to make the playoffs - not even 0.500 - and that's a reasonable hurdle for a team to try to overcome. Miami doesn't deserve the respect given to a playoff team if a 0.333 record against playoff teams is "too difficult" to accomplish.
8 Things to Root For
1. Miami Dolphins win over the Tennessee Titans - If the Dolphins beat the Titans, Dolphins improve to 5-4 and remain in the playoff hunt. if the Dolphins lose, then it becomes almost impossible for Miami to overtake Indianapolis for a wildcard spot.
2. Indianapolis Colts lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 3. Baltimore Ravens lose to the Oakland Raiders, 4. Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs, Jaguars, and Raiders have almost no shot at making the playoffs this year, so it's better for Miami for non-playoff teams to win than possible AFC Wildcard teams like the Colts, Ravens, and Steelers.
5. San Diego Chargers lose to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6. Cincinnati Bengals lose to New York Giants, 7. New York Jets lose to Seattle Seahawks - The Giants, Buccaneers, and Seahawks are NFC teams, so it's better for Miami for NFC teams to win rather than possible AFC Wildcard teams like the Chargers, Bengals, and Jets.
8. New England Patriots lose to Buffalo Bills - I listed the Bills as Wildcard contenders at 3-5, but if the Patriots lose in an upset and Miami wins next week, Miami and New England are tied. That keeps the AFC East in play, which means Miami wouldn't have to worry about tiebreaks with the Colts if they could win the AFC East. I don't believe the Bills will win, but if they do, Miami controls its fate when it comes to the AFC East, giving the team two ways to reach the playoffs.