The Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills last Thursday, winning against their AFC East rivals for the first time in the last four contests. The win not only ended that losing streak, but it buoyed the Dolphins' playoff chances, jumping them from 11th in the AFC last week to 7th this week, just one spot out of the postseason tournament.
AFC Playoff Picture (through Week 11):
1. New England Patriots (8-2) - AFC East division leaders
2. Denver Broncos (7-3) - AFC West division leaders
3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) - AFC North division leaders
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-4) - AFC South division leaders
5. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) - AFC West #2
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4) - AFC North #2
AFC Playoff Contenders (through Week 11):
Miami Dolphins (6-4)
San Diego Chargers (6-4)
Baltimore Ravens (6-4)
Cleveland Browns (6-4)
Houston Texans (5-5)
Buffalo Bills (5-5)
Tie Break Explanations:
7-3 record teams: Broncos hold the head-to-head tie break over the Chiefs.
6-4 record teams: In a multi-team tie, division tie breaks are used first to eliminate multiple teams from the same division. The Ravens beat the Browns on head-to-head tie break, leaving the Ravens, Dolphins, and Chargers all at 6-4. the Dolphins win the seventh position based on conference winning percentage (5-2), with the Chargers taking the eighth position (5-3) and the ravens in ninth (3-4). The Browns hold the tenth spot.
5-5 record teams: Texans hold the head-to-head tie break over the Bills.
The rest of the conference:
New York Jets (2-8)
Tennessee Titans (2-8)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Tie break: Jets are ahead of the Titans based on conference record.
Oakland Raiders (0-10)
Dolphins upcoming opponents:
@ Denver Broncos (7-3), AFC 2nd Seed, 1st AFC West
Miami clearly helped themselves with a big win at home against the Buffalo Bills. The win moved them to two games over .500, pushed them ahead of Buffalo in the AFC East, jumped them to seventh in the current playoff picture, and strengthened their division and conference records, assisting key tie break scenarios for the Dolphins. Now comes an even bigger test.
Miami travels to Denver this weekend looking to hand Denver their second straight loss, the first time Denver would have lost back-to-back games since 2012. The Broncos are reeling right now, having lost two-of-three and playing themselves into a tie with the Chiefs for the AFC West division lead.
The winner of this game not only keeps pace within the AFC playoff picture, but strengthens their case for one of the spots. Miami can continue to pressure the Patriots for the AFC East lead, sitting two games back but with one head-to-head game still to play, as well as claim the sixth position, and a potential playoff spot, from the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are on a bye this week and are behind Miami on the conference record tie break. A Denver win keeps them in the AFC West lead, no matter what the Chiefs do this weekend, and keeps them in the running for the AFC top seed when the playoffs roll around.
Three key AFC Week 12 games:
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (8:25pm ET Thursday) - A short week for the Chiefs could be exactly what the Raiders need to find their first win. Dolphins fans have to be rooting for former head coach Tony Sparano, now the interim-head coach for Oakland, as a Kansas City loss would drop them to 7-4, and within range of a Miami tie. The Chiefs have the head-to-head advantage on Miami, meaning the Dolphins would need another loss from Kansas City to overtake them, but one-step-at-a-time here.
Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (1pm ET Sunday) - The Patriots will likely remain on this list of key AFC match-ups the rest of the season, as the Dolphins look to track down the division leaders. This is a game the Lions could win, rebounding from a 14-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals that snapped a four-game winning streak for Detroit. New England has obviously found its groove this season, rattling off six straight wins after going 2-2 to open the year. Miami needs a Patriots loss, combined with a Miami win, to pull to within just one game of the division lead.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills(1pm ET Sunday) - The other two teams from the AFC East face off in a game the Dolphins would like to see New York win (I feel dirty just writing that). Buffalo is 5-5 on the season, and a win would bring them back to over .500, and, potentially, into a tie with Miami should the Dolphins not be able to upset Denver. The Dolphins would hold the tie break over the Bills, based on division records (Miami 2-1, Buffalo 3-2 with a win), but it would be better just have to the Bills start slipping away in the AFC East and Wildcard races.
As he does every week, Phinsider author KIH004 will bring you a full breakdown of every team to root for during Week 12 later this week.