There is a saying in the NFL it's not who you play but when you play them, implying that at various times of the season, teams are stronger or weaker depending on injuries or recent acquisitions by signing free agents or perhaps by trade.
I disagree. An organization named Cold Hard Facts several years ago came up with a formula to determine which games a team would have a better chance of losing and therefore how a team would finish based on the number of QUALITY OPPONENTS they had to face in a season. A QUALITY OPPONENT is defined as a team who currently (after week 7) has a record above .500 and who down the road would be almost certain losses for lousy teams and could even result in losses for good teams especially if they were played on the road (for example Denver losing to Indy this past Sunday). And as you might have suspected by now a team with fewer QUALITY OPPONENTS remaining on their schedule has a better chance to win more of the 9 or 10 games it has remaining in the season.
For the Dolphins this is how it breaks down:
The Dolphins now sit at 3-3. While their rivals the Pats and the Jets only have one and two QUALITY OPPONENTS remaining on their schedule respectively, Miami has 6 QUALITY OPPONENTS left in its remaining 10 games, Pats (2), Jets (2), Cincy, San Diego. And the Dolphins also still have to play the Steelers and the Panthers. Even if I'm really optimistic and have the Dolphins winning 2 of the 6 games against QUALITY OPPONENTS and splitting between Pittsburgh and Carolina that still only takes the Dolphins to 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
I know you're asking how could the Pats only face one QUALITY OPPONENT for the remainder of the season and the Dolphins have six. It makes no sense.
Anyway here are the projected final standings in the AFC based on current standings and number of QUALITY OPPONENTS remaining:
1 Denver Broncos (6-1)------------------13-3 (5 QUALITY OPPONENTS)
2 New England Patriots (5-2)------------12-4 (1 QUALITY OPPONENT)
3 Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)--------------11-5 (beat the Colts)(3 QUALITY OPPONENTS)
4 Indianapolis Colts (5-2)--------------11-5 (lose to the Bengals)(2 QUALITY OPPONENTS)
5 Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)------------12-4 (5 QUALITY OPPONENTS)
6 New York Jets (4-3)-----------------10-6 (2 QUALITY OPPONENTS)