AFC playoff picture - Miami gives up control, needs help

Tom Szczerbowski

The Miami Dolphins were completely dismantled by the Buffalo Bills this afternoon. With that loss, the Dolphins went from in control of their playoff destiny to needing a lot of help.

Things simply could not have gone worse for the Miami Dolphins in the early time slot of Sunday's Week 16 slate of games.  With the playoffs in their hands, needing to simply beat two sub-.500 teams over the final two weeks of the NFL season, the Dolphins laid an egg against the Buffalo Bills today, losing 19-0.

Suddenly, Miami went from in control of their playoff future to needing a lot of help.

In order for a Dolphins team that looked simply miserable today to have a shot at January football, the first step is to see either the Baltimore Ravens lose this afternoon to the New England Patriots, or the San Diego Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders.  If those two outcomes are reversed, with Baltimore winning and San Diego losing, Miami will be eliminated.

The official way for Miami to make the playoffs this season is to have at least one loss over the last two weeks from the Ravens, and two wins from the Chargers.  Miami would also have to beat the New York Jets next week in Miami, a scenario that does not seem as sure a result as it did just a few hours ago.  With the Dolphins, Ravens, and Chargers all tied at 9-7, Miami would claim the sixth and final playoff position thanks to a better conference record than Baltimore and San Diego.

The Dolphins could also make the playoffs with a win next week, and losses in both games by the Ravens.  Baltimore faces the Cincinnati Bengals next week.  That would put Miami at 9-7 on the year, while the Ravens would be 8-8.  The Dolphins hold the head-to-head tie breaker over the Chargers, if it came down to a two-way tie between the clubs.

Around the rest of the AFC, the Denver Broncos clinched the AFC West with a win and a Kansas City Chiefs loss today.  Kansas City will still make the post season as a Wildcard, holding the fifth seed.  With Miami's loss, the Patriots officially won the AFC East division championship, but could still earn the number one overall seed if they win out and Denver loses next week.  With their win and the Miami loss, the Bengals claimed their post season ticket, at least being the sixth seed if not the AFC North division championship, which could come down to next week's contest with the Ravens.

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