Despite a four game losing streak early in the year, an offensive tackle who defected, a guard who has been suspended, an ongoing NFL investigation, a media circus, injuries to key players, and a myriad of other issues, the Miami Dolphins are playing meaningful late-December football in 2013. How meaningful? Not only is Miami in the middle of the playoff race in the AFC, but they are to the point where they could actually clinch a postseason berth in Week 16.
With the completion of the Week 15 games, including last night's Monday Night Football contest with the Baltimore Ravens beating the Detroit Lions, we can actually lay out the road map for exactly what has to happen for Miami to punch their January tickets. It all starts with the Dolphins facing the Buffalo Bills in New York this weekend in the 1pm ET time slot. If Miami is able to beat their AFC East rivals, evening the season series after losing to Buffalo in Miami earlier this season, they will have taken the first step toward a Week 16 clinch.
While the Dolphins are taking on the Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals will be hosting the Minnesota Vikings. For the Dolphins to claim the playoff berth, they will need the Vikings to leaving Ohio with a win.
Then, with a 4:25pm ET kickoff, the New England Patriots will visit the Baltimore Ravens. If New England, who the Dolphins beat this past weekend, were to come out on top of the defending Super Bowl champions, the Dolphins would lay claim to the final playoff spot.
The Dolphins are actually in control of their own destiny at this point. As long as they win both the Bills game and their Week 17 contest against the New York Jets, they will make the postseason. That makes the Patriots and Ravens game even more interesting. If the Dolphins win and the Bengals lose in the early afternoon time slot, should Dolphins fans want the Ravens to lose, giving the Dolphins the playoff berth, but seeing the Patriots clinch the AFC East division championship, or would it be better to see the Ravens win on Sunday, keeping the Patriots within Miami's reach for the top spot in the division?
If New England were to lose to the Ravens, then lose to the Bills in Week 17, while Miami wins both of their remaining games, Miami would come away with the division title. Interesting problem to have, isn't it?
If you would rather see Miami simply claim their playoff position this week, you want a Dolphins win and losses from the Bengals and Ravens. However, to keep the division in play, the Ravens would have to win, meaning the Patriots would lose. No matter which option you would prefer to see in Week 16, the Dolphins are playoff bound as long as they win both of their remaining games.
So, which would you prefer?