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2016 AFC Playoff Picture and Dolphins fans rooting guide Week 15

How does the Week 15 schedule help Miami’s playoff chances?

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are tied for an AFC Wildcard position, but they are currently on the outside looking in based on tie breakers. This week’s rooting guide focuses on trying to get Miami ahead of those tie breakers, either by winning and putting a game between them and everyone else, or by having a team that could disrupt Miami’s Wildcard positioning move into their respective division leads. That means teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans are, hopefully, going to win their division and keep the Wildcard clear for the Dolphins.

(Yes, the Dolphins hold the head-to-head tie break on Pittsburgh, but the Steelers beat Miami in a three-way tie with the Broncos due to AFC conference record).

Basically, if everything goes right for the Dolphins, starting with a win over the New York Jets on Saturday night, they could find themselves in the sixth seed position by the end of the weekend. They then just need to take care of business in the final two weeks - potentially even being able to go 1-1 over those games - to ensure they make the Playoffs.

All across the AFC there are games that can help or hurt Miami in the chase for their first postseason appearance since 2008. Here are this week’s games, and the Dolphins fans’ rooting guide:. AFC Teams are indicated with their records shown.

Current AFC Playoff Standings:

1. New England Patriots (11-2) - AFC East leader

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) - AFC West leader

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) - AFC North leader

4. Houston Texans (7-6) - AFC South leader

5. Oakland Raiders (10-3) - Wildcard 1

6. Denver Broncos (8-5) - Wildcard 2

Miami Dolphins (8-5) at New York Jets (4-9)

Pretty simple, right? Plus, the Jets losing is always great. Root for: Miami.

Cleveland Browns (0-13) at Buffalo Bills (6-7)

The Bills are two games behind the Dolphins, so really, a win here would not hurt Miami and could play into the strength of victory/schedule tie breaks.s. But, a loss to the winless Browns could be the deciding factor in making Cardale Jones the starting quarterback, which would mean he would get his first career starts against....the Dolphins. That is always fun. Hopefully, Cleveland can pull it out. Root for: Cleveland.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

This is where we start to get into confusing scenarios. The Ravens winning the AFC North should have been the best scenario for Miami, given the head-to-head advantage the Ravens have over the Dolphins now, but they have fallen a game behind the Dolphins and the rest of the AFC 8-5 teams, including Pittsburgh, who has the AFC North lead now. However, if Baltimore were now to take the division lead again, Pittsburgh would beat Miami in a three-way tie with the Dolphins and Denver, despite Miami having the head-to-head win over Pittsburgh. That would mean, it is actually better at this point to keep Baltimore behind the Dolphins and the Steelers. Like I said, it is confusing. Root for: Philadelphia.

Tennessee Titans (7-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)

The Chiefs took over the AFC West lead with their victory over Oakland last week. Now, they are the second seeded team in the current playoff standings. That hurt Miami, because it means Oakland falls into the first Wildcard position and is now two games ahead of Miami. Tennessee is a game behind the Dolphins, but is tied for the AFC South lead. That could mean, Tennessee, with a win, moves into a Playoff spot, but not one Miami could claim, while Kansas City losing could make up a game on a potential Wildcard team depending on what happens between Oakland and the Chiefs over the next few weeks. That should be the best goal for Miami. Root for: Tennessee.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1)

If the Ravens lose, as we have selected above, then the Steelers losing here actually could help Miami in the long run. If Miami were to win and Pittsburgh were to lose, that would put Miami a game ahead of them record wise. That would mean, should Baltimore catch back up to the Steelers - and they play each other next week - PIttsburgh would be a game behind Miami in the Wildcard race, eliminating the three-way tie option. Root for: Cincinnati.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Houston Texans (7-6)

The Texans are currently leading the AFC South, but they are a game behind Miami record-wise. It actually would be more beneficial for Miami to have the Titans move into the division lead, given Tennessee’s head-to-head win over Miami, so a slip in the Wildcard hunt would not make that a factor. That means Miami should want Houston to lose here. Root for: Jacksonville.

New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals

Two NFC teams, but the strength of victory/schedule tie breaks have an impact here. Arizona winning helps Miami, given Miami beat Arizona last weekend. Root for: Arizona.

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons

Another two NFC teams, and another chance to better the strength of victory/schedule. Root for: San Francisco.

Oakland Raiders (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-8)

Basically, the same arguments for the Chiefs to lose above hold for the Raiders here. They are currently in the first Wildcard position, and they could still claim the AFC West crown, but Miami could use losses from both the Chiefs and the Raiders to potentially bring the top Wildcard position into play. Miami also beat the Chargers this year, so the strength of victory/schedule tie breaks are a factor with them winning. Root for: San Diego.

New England Patriots (11-2) at Denver Broncos (8-5)

We have reached that unfortunate time of year where it seems inevitable that the AFC East title will again go to the Patriots. They clinch with either a win or a Miami loss. That means, honestly, the hope to unseat New England should be considered over, with all of the focus on getting into the Wildcard position currently held by Denver. With that said, Miami fans should root for the Patriots to win the AFC East this weekend, because that would give Denver another loss, and, with a Miami win, push them behind the Dolphins. Root for: New England.

Games not considered

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Indianapolis Colts (6-7) at Minnesota Vikings
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins

Rooting Guide Results:

Assuming everything goes as written above, the AFC Playoff standings would be:

1. New England Patriots (12-2) - AFC East winner

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) - AFC West leader

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) - AFC North leader

4. Tennessee Titans (8-6) - AFC South leader

5. Oakland Raiders (10-4) - Wildcard 1

6. Miami Dolphins (9-5) - Wildcard 2