AFC Playoff Picture: How the Dolphins clinch the postseason today

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins start the day in the sixth position in the AFC Playoff picture. Will they hold that position at the end of the day, making it to January football for the first time since 2008? Here's what has to happen.

The 2013 NFL regular season is coming to a close today with a full slate of games, including the Miami Dolphins hosting the New York Jets.  The Dolphins could earn their first playoff berth since 2008 with a win and some help.

How do the Dolphins clinch the postseason? There are four scenarios for Miami to continue playing in January.

First, if Miami wins and the Baltimore Ravens lose or tie, Miami is in. This scenario keeps the Ravens from being tied with the Dolphins in the final standings, meaning the head-to-head two-team tie break advantage the Ravens have over Miami would not come into play.

Second, if Miami wins and the San Diego Chargers win, Miami is in. This scenario negates the Ravens' head-to-head advantage by ensuring Miami and San Diego would be in a three way tie, should Baltimore win. Since the Chargers and Ravens don't face each other this season, the head-to-head tie break rule cannot be used to solve a three team tie. Instead, it would have to fall to the conference record for all three teams, and the Dolphins would win that. If San Diego wins, but Baltimore loses, the Dolphins would beat the Chargers in a two-team tie based on the head-to-head advantage Miami has for beating the Chargers this year.

The third scenario involves a Miami tie with the Jets this weekend. If the Dolphins and Jets tie, and the Ravens lose, and San Diego either loses or ties the Chiefs then Miami would be in.

And, finally, if the Dolphins and Jets tie, the Ravens tie the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Chargers and Chiefs tie, Miami is in.

If the Dolphins lose, they will be eliminated from post season contention because they would fall behind the Jets in the AFC East division standings, based on division win percentage.

To try to make it a little easier to follow, here are all the scenarios, graphically:

Dolphins_week_17_playoff_scenarios

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