Now for a disclaimer - immediately after the Dolphins' game against the Bills, the Phinsider published three articles discussing the Dolphins' playoff outlook. If you read those articles feel you already have an excellent understanding of the playoff picture, you should know this article doesn't have much new to add.
Category 1: Irrelevant Games, such as NFC team vs. NFC team matchups or games featuring AFC non-threats (11)
Denver Broncos (12 - 3) vs. Oakland Raiders (4 - 11) - The Broncos are guaranteed a top-2 seed, meaning the Dolphins wouldn't see them in the playoffs until week 2 of the playoffs at the earliest, regardless of the result of this game (which the Broncos will likely win).
San Francisco 49'ers vs. Arizona Cardinals
1. The Steelers win this game, which is probable, and
2. The Dolphins lose on Sunday.
However, if the Dolphins lose on Sunday, then the Dolphins are out of the playoffs, regardless of whether or not the Steelers win this particular game.
That's because the Jets beating the Dolphins in week 17 would mean both AFC East teams' records are tied at 8-8 for the season. However, the Jets would have a better AFC East division record at 4-2 compared to the Dolphins' 2-4 in this scenario, and the division record is the first tiebreak in a tie involving 3 or more teams competing for a wildcard spot if any teams are in the same division as each other.
Therefore, if the Dolphins don't win on Sunday against the Jets, the Dolphins are eliminated from the playoffs (regardless of whether or not the Steelers win) because the Jets would eliminate the Dolphins early in any tiebreak scenario if multiple teams also finish 8-8.
The result of this Browns-Steelers game only changes "which" AFC team would beat the Dolphins for a wildcard spot if the Dolphins lose on Sunday, not "whether" an AFC team would beat the Dolphins for a wildcard spot.
Category 2 Games: AFC team vs. NFC team matchups (NONE)
Category 3 Games: AFC team vs. AFC team matchups (4)
Previously Eliminated - Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets
Summary for this week:
1. A Dolphins win + a Ravens defeat = Dolphins clinch #6 seed (regardless of whether the Chargers win or lose) and play Cincy in the first round of the playoffs if Pats beat Bills