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NFL Week 12 playoff picture and rooting guide for Miami Dolphins fans

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A weekly look at the NFL schedule and a breakdown of how those games need to finish to best help the Miami Dolphins.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, in the offensive snap counts post, I wrote that this week will feature several regular articles here on The Phinsider that were missed last week. This will be one of those. Every week, we take a look at the NFL schedule and put together a rooting guide for Miami Dolphins fans, trying to find the results that best assist the south Florida franchise in making the Playoffs.

This week, with Thanksgiving on the calendar, means we will have three Thursday game, but only one of them features AFC teams, meaning we will not consider the first two contests on the schedule this week.

Sunday will be a busy day, with no teams having a bye week this week, so there will be plenty of games up for consideration. The basic rule for our rooting guide at this point is to root for an NFC team over an AFC team, root for AFC East teams to lose, and for the Dolphins to win. After that, we start to try to guess at some of the right teams for whom to root.

Below, you will find all of the games featuring AFC teams (with the AFC teams denoted by their records), as well as who to root for to best help the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Thursday, 8:30pm

This is really a no-win situation for the Dolphins, unless it ends in a tie. Miami would benefit from both teams losing, pushing them down in the Wildcard standings. The Dolphins do not play the Colts this year, but they beat the Steelers to start the five game winning streak they are now enjoying, so tie breakers come into the equation here, both with the head-to-head advantage over Pittsburgh and with the strength of victory/schedule tied breaks with other teams. That pushes the rooting guide slightly toward the Steelers. Root for: Steelers

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Chicago Bears

Sunday, 1pm

Whereas the Dolphins beat the Steelers, they lost to the Titans this year, which means they need to make sure they do not end up in a two-team tie this year. Add in the fact that this is an AFC versus NFC game, and the rooting guide is pretty simple. Root for: Bears.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-5)

Sunday, 1pm

The Jaguars are just about out of the Playoff hunt, while the Bills are a game behind the Dolphins in both the AFC Wildcard hunt and in the AFC East division itself. That means Miami needs to see Buffalo lose. Root for: Jaguars.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Sunday, 1pm

Baltimore is currently in the Playoffs as the AFC North division leaders, with Pittsburgh tied for that position, but losing out on tie breakers. With the decision to root for Pittsburgh above, it makes sense to see Baltimore lose here, pushing them down in the Wildcard hunt. Root for: Bengals.

New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (0-11)

Sunday, 1pm

This is one of the times that an AFC team beating an NFC team makes sense. Miami beat the Browns earlier in the year, and Cleveland is clearly out of the Playoff picture. It would help the Dolphins if Cleveland could pick up the win, which helps in the strength of victory/schedule tie breakers. Root for: Browns.

San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins (6-4)

Sunday, 1pm

Miami needs to keep up the winning if they are going to make the playoffs. Root for: Dolphins.

San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Houston Texans (6-4)

Sunday, 1pm

This is a game that could be a tough one on to pick for our rooting guide. The Dolphins beat the Chargers two weeks ago, so they have the head-to-head tie break there. The Texans, currently lead the AFC South, but they are only one game ahead of the Indianapolis Colts and a game-and-a-half ahead of the Tennessee Titans. That means the Texans could eventually fall back into the Wildcard hunt if the Colts or Titans can put together a charge. Probably the best way at this point it to see the Texans run away with the AFC South, so we will go that way. Root for: Texans.

New England Patriots (8-2) at New York Jets (3-7)

Sunday, 4:25pm

I cannot write it. It is not possible to put “root,” “for,” and “Jets” together. Maybe if it is “Root for Jets to lose,” but that is not what has to happen here. The Dolphins are in the AFC East hunt, but need some help with the Patriots picking up a loss somewhere along the line. Why not here? Root for: A Patriots loss.

Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders (8-2)

Sunday, 4:25pm

The AFC West is still the danger for the Dolphins trying to claim a Wildcard position, simply because the top three teams are 7-3 or better. The Raiders have claimed the one-game lead, so rather than having them fall back into the Wildcard hunt, them winning here and trying to extend that lead will be better for the Dolphins. Root for: Raiders.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Denver Broncos (7-3)

Sunday, 8:30pm

Fun fact. If the Dolphins win this week and the Chiefs lose, Miami moves into the sixth seed for the Playoffs. Even more fun fact: If the Dolphins win this week and the Broncos lose, Miami also moves into the sixth seed for the Playoffs. Yeah, all the Dolphins have to do this week is win, and then the Chiefs and Broncos have to not end in a tie. Who do you think has the better chance of falling back even more as the season goes through Weeks 13-17? That is the team that should win this week. Looking at the upcoming schedules for both teams, they each have to face off against each other one more time after this week, they both also have Oakland still on the schedule, but the biggest difference is that the Broncos still have a game against the Patriots. I’ll pick the Broncos to win, because I think the Patriots could beat them later, but whichever way you want to go with this pick is not wrong. Root for: Broncos.

Not Considered

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
St. Louis Rams at New Orleans Saints
Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles