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Dolphins playoff chances: A winding, cliff-side road with no guardrail

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The Miami Dolphins are not out of the NFL Playoff chase - yet.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Click here to see the updated playoff chances for Miami following the San Diego win on Saturday night.

Buckle those seatbelts, and maybe check your brakes, this is going to be a crazy ride. I've had a couple of people ask me, since the Miami Dolphins are not yet eliminated from the NFL Playoffs, what exactly has to happen for them to make it to the postseason. After playing around on the NFL.com Playoff Predictor, the Yahoo! Sports Playoff Scenario Generator, and the ESPN Playoff Machine, I think I have the winding, bumpy, cliff-side with no guard rail, road the Dolphins must travel to land in the playoffs.

Nothing about this scenario makes it likely the Dolphins could make the postseason. I'm not trying to sell you that Miami has a clear path to January football. With that in mind, here we go:

Miami Dolphins

Current position: 3rd AFC East, 11th AFC
Current record: 7-7

What Miami needs: The Dolphins must win both of their remaining games, at home against the Minnesota Vikings followed by the New York Jets coming to South Florida.

Final Projected Record: 9-7

Pittsburgh Steelers

Current position: 2nd AFC North, 5th AFC
Current record: 9-5

What Miami needs: Pittsburgh must lose both of their remaining games, hosting Kansas City this weekend, then the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.

Final Projected Record: 9-7

Baltimore Ravens

Current position: 3rd NFC North, 6th AFC
Current record: 9-5

What Miami needs: Baltimore must lose both of their remaining games, at the Houston Texans and hosting the Cleveland Browns.

Final Projected Record: 9-7

Kansas City Chiefs

Current position: 2nd AFC West, 7th AFC
Current record: 8-6

What Miami needs: The Chiefs must win at Pittsburgh in Week 16 and at home to San Diego in Week 17.

Final Projected Record: 10-7

San Diego Chargers

Current position: 3rd AFC West, 8th AFC
Current record: 8-6

What Miami needs: San Diego must lose to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16, then lose to the Chiefs in the season finale.

Final Projected Record:8-8

Buffalo Bills

Current position: 2nd AFC East, 9th AFC
Current record: 8-6

What Miami needs: Buffalo must lose at least one of their two remaining games, either at Oakland in Week 16 or at New England in Week 17. Losing both games does not eliminate Miami.

Final Projected Record: 9-7 or 8-8

Houston Texans

Current position: 2nd AFC South, 10th AFC
Current record: 7-7

What Miami needs: The Texans have to beat the Ravens in Week 16, then lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.

Final Projected Record: 8-8

Tiebreak:

9-7 teams: Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo

NFL tiebreak procedures for multiple teams uses division tie breaks to eliminate all but one team from each division. In this case, the AFC East tie break goes to the Dolphins over the Bills based on division win/loss record if the Bills lose to the Patriots or based on conference win/loss record if the Bills lose to Oakland. Pittsburgh wins the tie break over the Ravens based on division win/loss record (if Cleveland wins out and moves to 9-7, the Steelers would still win the tie break based on common games winning percentage).

After the divisions are only represented by one team, Miami wins the tie break over the Steelers based on common opponents played. The Dolphins have a 3-1 record compared to the Steelers’ 2-2 in games played against the Ravens, the Jaguars, and the Jets.

Final AFC Playoff Picture in this scenario:

1 – New England Patriots (13-3)
2 – Denver Broncos (13-3)
3 – Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
4 – Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1)
5 – Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
6 – Miami Dolphins (9-7)

Dolphins playoff scenario graphically:

Dolphins 2014 Week 16 playoff scenario