It's week 15, and the Dolphins are tied for an AFC Wildcard spot with a 7-6 record. This article series talks about what upcoming games are worth keeping an eye on (besides the Dolphins games, of course), and what outcome would help the Dolphins.
Last week, in the Dolphins' favor, the Bucs blew out the Bills, and the Broncos beat the Titans. The results that went against the Dolphins' interests were the Ravens defeating the Vikings with a last minute touchdown, the Bengals dominating the Colts, the Jets defeating the Raiders, the Chiefs crushing the Redskins, the Chargers blowing out the Giants, and the Browns choking against the Patriots. The Ravens' win means the Dolphins still do not control their own destiny, even if they win all of their remaining games, so the Dolphins' playoff hopes are dependent on other teams.
In the poll for the previous article, only 14% of folks correctly predicted 2 of the 8 non-Dolphins matchups going the Dolphins' way, so this was an unexpectedly bad week for the Dolphins aside from the narrow victory over the Steelers. Let's see what matchups we'd like to go our way this week.
The goal is for the Dolphins to either be a wildcard playoff team or winners of the AFC East. Therefore, I've broken up the 15 upcoming non-Dolphins games into 3 categories.
Category 1: Irrelevant Games, such as NFC team vs. NFC team matchups or games featuring AFC non-threats (9)
Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcons
San Francisco 49ers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Buffalo Bills (4 - 9) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (4 - 9)
Houston Texans (2 - 11) vs. Indianapolis Colts (8 - 5) - The Colts, despite their recent struggles, have clinched the AFC South. The Texans just fired their head coach, so I'd expect the team with something to play for (the Colts) to win.
Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns (4 - 9)
Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
New Orleans Saints vs. Saint Louis Rams
Category 2 Games: AFC team vs. NFC team matchups (3)
It makes sense to root for the NFC team to win, unless it benefits the Dolphins to have that AFC team to win their division because they have a tiebreak advantage over the Dolphins.
Root for Detroit Lions to defeat the Baltimore Ravens (7 - 6) - The Ravens have a head-to-head tiebreak advantage over the Dolphins but lose on the conference tiebreak with a 6-4 AFC record (60% win percentage) versus the Dolphins' 6-3 AFC record (66.7% win percentage). Therefore, Ravens win a spot if there is a 2-way tie, but they probably lose to the Dolphins in the event of a 3-way tie. It's better to hope for the Ravens to lose than bank on an unlikely 3-way tie, so hopefully the Ravens start losing this week. Plus, this means we get to root for Megatron and Reggie Bush this week, so that should be fun.
Root for the Carolina Panthers to defeat the New York Jets (6 - 7) - As usual, root for the Jets to lose because, A. They're the Jets, and B. They're still in the wildcard race.
Root for the Arizona Cardinals to defeat the Tennessee Titans (5 - 8) - The Titans are nearly eliminated from the wildcard race with 8 losses, but the Titans' upcoming schedule has 2 "easy' games against the Jaguars and Texans. With this being the last game the Titans won't be favored in, ideally the Titans lose and end the year below 0.500.
Category 3 Games: AFC team vs. AFC team matchups (3)
In this group, you usually root for the AFC team that either isn't in the AFC East or isn't a wildcard contender (either because they're likely division winners or because they've lost too many games). These are the toughest matchups to pick in terms of what helps the Dolphins, so I'll explain my reasoning more in-depth.
Root for the San Diego Chargers (6 - 7) to defeat the Denver Broncos (11 - 2) -
I've decided to change my stance on the Chargers. Last week, I favored rooting for the Chargers to lose
since I wasn't confident the Dolphins would reach 9 wins this year. Back then, the upcoming road game against Steelers was viewed as a high potential loss, and the Patriots' offense was hitting its stride with Gronk getting healthy, so I was nervous the Dolphins would lose 2 games in a row. Therefore, I disagreed with folks like Aaron333
who argued a Chargers' win was beneficial, and I instead wanted all AFC Wildcard rivals to lose as much as possible.
However, with the Dolphins narrowly beating the Steelers to reach 7 wins, the Dolphins have a good shot at reaching 9 wins with upcoming games against the Bills, Jets, and the Gronk-loss Patriots this Sunday. Meanwhile, the Chargers cannot win more than 9 games this season anymore, so the Chargers are more likely to "tie" the Dolphins than surpass them. The Denver Broncos have nearly clinched the AFC West, so they're not competing for a wildcard spot. However, the Chargers lose both the conference record tiebreak (3-6 compared to Fins' 6-3) and head-to-head tiebreak with the Dolphins.
Therefore, I've come around to Aaron333
's view, and I think we should root for the Chargers to win because any tiebreak scenario involving either the Dolphins and Chargers or the Dolphins, Chargers, and a third team likely favors the Dolphins. The Dolphins' win against the Steelers was critical in increasing the Dolphins' "expected" wins this season to 9 instead of 8, and a 9-win Dolphins team has nothing to fear from the Chargers who have already lost 7 games.
Root for the Pittsburgh Steelers (5 - 8) to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals (8 - 4)
- The Steelers are probably not a threat to the Dolphins in the race for a wildcard spot anymore because they are two wins behind the Fins, they lose the head-to-head tiebreak against the Dolphins given their recent loss, they have a worse conference record (4-6 for the Steelers vs. 6-3 for the Dolphins), and last, the Steelers have tough games against the Browns and Packers after this game. The Steelers could only win a wildcard spot if they go 3-0 in the final 3 weeks as both
the Dolphins and Ravens go 0-3 to finish the year...which is unlikely. Therefore, a loss for the Steelers doesn't help the Dolphins much.
However, if the Bengals lose this game, then that could allow the Ravens to win the AFC North, which could benefit the Dolphins since the Ravens (unlike the Bengals) have the head-to-head tiebreak advantage over the Dolphins. If the Bengals lose at least one game in the next 2 weeks before their week 17 game against Ravens, then the Dolphins would regain control of their own destiny because either the Bengals or Ravens would be guaranteed a loss or tie in their week 17 game against each other, giving the Dolphins a chance to catch up.
Long story short - The Bengals losing could allow the Ravens to win the AFC North (taking them out of the wildcard race), leaving the Bengals stuck competing against the Dolphins for a wildcard spot with both the head-to-head and conference record tiebreaks going in favor of the Dolphins if the Bengals lose this week. The Steelers losing eliminates them from playoff contention, but they're nearly guaranteed elimination in the next 3 weeks even if they win all their remaining games. Therefore, go Steelers!
Root for the Oakland Raiders (4 - 9) to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs (10 - 3)
- The Chiefs have very nearly
clinched a playoff spot, but the 5th seed is still in play if they go 0-3 as the Dolphins go 3-0 to finish the year. Very unlikely, but still possible. Meanwhile, a victory for a Raiders team which is virtually eliminated from the playoffs can't hurt the Dolphins, so a win for the Raiders helps the Dolphins more than a Chiefs' victory.
If those 6 games all go in favor of the Dolphins, and if the Dolphins defeat the New England Patriots (10 - 3), the new standings would be...
#1 seed - AFC West leader Denver Broncos (11 - 3)
#2 seed - AFC East leader New England Patriots (10 - 4)
#3 seed - AFC North leader Cincinnati Bengals (9 - 5) - earns #3 because of head to head tiebreak over the Colts
#4 seed - AFC South leader Indianapolis Colts (9 - 5)
#5 seed - Wildcard #1 Kansas City Chiefs (10 - 4)
#6 seed - Wildcard #2 Miami Dolphins (8 - 6)
Teams in the Hunt - Baltimore Ravens (7 - 7), San Diego Chargers (7 - 7), Pittsburgh Steelers (6 - 8), New York Jets (6 - 8)
Practically Eliminated (9+ losses) - Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans
A Dolphins win with either a Ravens loss or Bengals loss leaves the Dolphins in control of their own destiny. The Dolphins would also have with a slim chance at the AFC East title.
So - any big disagreements? Oh, and don't forget to vote.