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AFC Playoff picture: Scoreboard watching for the Miami Dolphins

The Playoff picture is starting to come into focus. What games impact the AFC standings this weekend?

NFL: Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins head into Week 12 a game out of the playoffs and two games out of the AFC East lead. While the Dolphins have to take care of business for themselves by beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, this week also allows the Dolphins to start scoreboard watching. The NFL Playoff picture is starting to take shape, and we can now figure out what games will have the most impact on the Dolphins’ playoff chances.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the rooting guide for Dolphins fans, trying to decipher the results from the entire slate of NFL games this week, and where the Dolphins would get the best results for the weekend. Below, we look at the top games from Sunday that will impact Miami’s playoff chances.

AFC East division

Jaguars at Bills

The Dolphins are a game up on the Bills in the AFC East (and the Wildcard race), so this game is important in terms of staying clear of Buffalo. Miami will play the Bills once more this year, but getting further ahead of them between now and then would be a bonus for the South Florida franchise.

Patriots at Jets

Miami (and the rest of the AFC East) are again chasing the Patriots, who are two game clear of the Dolphins for the division title. The Dolphins play New England in Miami to finish the regular season, so they have a chance to make up one of those two game for themselves, but need New England to lose somewhere else if they are going to win the division. Could an AFC East rivalry game be that other loss?


Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears

The Titans are two games behind the Dolphins in the loss column, with their bye week still to come. A win this week clearly keeps them in the hunt for the Wildcard, despite currently being the 11th place team in the conference. They still have a gauntlet of games against the Denver Broncos, at the Kansas City Chiefs, and against the Houston Texans, so it is not an easy schedule remaining, making this game an important one for them in the hunt for a Wildcard spot. They hold the head-to-head tie-break over the Dolphins.

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

Miami is currently a game clear of the eighth place team in the conference, the Baltimore Ravens. That said, the teams are heading into a head-to-head match up next week. A Ravens win today would slide them back into the AFC North lead, bringing the 6-5 Pittsburgh Steelers back into the pack in Wildcard hunt. The Bengals are desperate for a win, just barely keeping themselves in playoff contention at this point, but a win over the Ravens would go a long way to them potentially climbing back into a division title hunt.

San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans

Both teams here have implications for the Dolphins. The Chargers are 4-6 on the year, two games behind Miami, plus the Dolphins have the head-to-head tie-break, making it a tough climb back to the Wildcard for San Diego, but not an impossible one. The first step would be to beat the AFC South leading Texans, which would not knock them out of their division lead, but would put them within reach of the Indianapolis Colts. At the end of the day, the Dolphins’ scoreboard watching should want to see the Texans win, knocking the Charger further back from a Wildcard consideration, but whatever the result, this game will have playoff implications.

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

This is, by far, the most important game on the schedule for the Dolphins other than their own. The Chiefs and Broncos currently hold the two Wildcard positions in the AFC, but they play each other twice still this year. As these two beat upon each other through their annual home-and-home series, the Dolphins, with a win, start to move from a game back of the Wildcard to tied for the position.