The Miami Dolphins played their Week 4 game on Thursday, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in a pretty ugly game. While dealing with what the team looked like on national television is a full-time job for Dolphins fans, it does mean that, come Sunday and Monday, we do no have to worry about every little play and can, instead, just watch some football.
As we do every week of the season, we take a look at upcoming NFL schedule for the week, building a rooting guide for Dolphins fans. This week completes the first quarter of the 2016 season for the league, so we are starting to see the teams that will be near the top of the league when the season ends, and the teams that have a lot of work to do if they want to keep themselves in contention (Miami).
Here is the Week 4 rooting guide. (AFC teams are shown with their current records.)
Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3)
The goal for this rooting guide, given Miami’s 1-3 record, is to make the hunt for the Wildcard positioning as messy and ugly as possible. That means keeping as many teams in the one win area as possible. The Colts appear to be in Wildcard mode, with the Houston Texans pushing toward the top of the division. Of course, the Texans are only a game ahead of Indianapolis, but they appear, early this year at least, to be the better of the two teams, so a Colts loss here makes sense in this AFC South showdown. Root for: Jaguars.
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Houston Texans (2-1)
The rest of the AFC South meets in this game. If the Texans are going to be the better team and win this division, then a win here makes sense and keeps them out of the eventual Wildcard picture (even if that means watching Lamar Miller do well). A Tennessee loss puts another team at 1-3, continuing to make the Wildcard picture messy - and making it so that next week, the Dolphins can jump a game ahead of them with a win (assuming Miami can beat Tennessee). Root for: Texans.
Cleveland Browns (0-3) at Washington Redskins
The Browns are a mess right now, but they could have a purpose here. Miami beat the Browns, so Cleveland picking up some wins helps Miami in eventual tie breakers, specifically in strength of schedule and strength of win categories. A Washington win or loss has no actual bearing on the Dolphins, so a Cleveland win could be beneficial - eventually. Arguing that Cleveland at 0-4 makes more sense so they are not tied with the Dolphins record-wise does make sense, but they likely will not be a Wildcard contender deep into the season, so a win now would not be that dangerous. Root for: Browns.
Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets (1-2)
An NFC team playing against an AFC East team makes this a pretty simple decision. Root for: Seahawks.
Buffalo Bills (1-2) at New England Patriots (3-0)
There are two ways to go here, Wildcard considerations or Undefeated Season considerations. The Patriots probably will not go undefeated - though with an angry Tom Brady, maybe they can. The Bills will likely be in the Wildcard hunt. A loss for the Bills is better for Miami in 2016. Root for: Patriots.
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
This game is probably more difficult to pick than was the Bills at Patriots game. Both of these teams could be Wildcard contenders when the season comes to an end. You could flip a coin here and not be wrong. In this case, the Undefeated Season angle gives the nod slightly to the Raiders. Root for: Raiders.
Denver Broncos (3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
An NFC team against an undefeated AFC team. Again, pretty simple. If you want to add in the angle of trying to see the Broncos push to a big lead in the AFC West, to get them out of the WIldcard picture, maybe you can make that argument. Root for: Buccaneers.
New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
Another NFC team playing an AFC team, plus a chance to keep another AFC team in the one win club. That makes this straight forward. Root for: Saints.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
This one is a little complicated. The Chiefs are probably Wildcard bound, assuming the Broncos are the AFC West division champions, while the Steelers could be the AFC North division winners. Assuming that is the correct route the season will go, rooting for a Steelers win and a Chiefs loss makes sense. Root for: Steelers.