The NFL’s Week 16 schedule starts tonight with an all NFC match-up. That game does not impact the playoff chances for the Miami Dolphins, but when Saturday gets here, there will be plenty of games that do have a play in Miami’s chances at making the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins can clinch their ticket to the Playoffs this week, with the most straight forward scenario being a win over the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Below, you will find the current playoff picture in the AFC, the rooting guide for Dolphins fans this week, and the standings if ever game fell the way of the rooting guide.
AFC Playoff Picture heading into Week 16:
1. New England Patriots (12-2) - Clinched AFC East championship, first-round bye
2. Oakland Raiders (11-3) - AFC West leader; Clinched playoff berth
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) - AFC North leader
4. Houston Texans (8-6) - AFC South leader
5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) - Wildcard 1
6. Miami Dolphins (9-5) - Wildcard 2
Last week, the Dolphins completed the season sweep of the New York Jets for the first time since 2009. This week, they can complete the sweep of the Bills for the first time since 2011 and the first season sweep against both the Jets and Bills in the same year since 2003. Plus, since this is a rooting guide for Dolphins fans, this game is pretty simple to pick. Root for: Miami.
The Patriots clinched the AFC East title last week, so the Dolphins cannot catch them in the standings. Them winning this game could be good for Miami because (a) no one can actually root for a win from the Jets and (b) if New England clinches the top seed in the playoffs (with a win and an Oakland loss), they may rest some of their top players in Week 17, when the Dolphins host them in Miami. If Miami does not clinch their playoff berth this week, then a Patriots team resting their players could be a great thing for the Dolphins. Root for: New England.
There are a couple of playoff clinching scenarios for the Dolphins that include Miami having a tie this week. While that is an unlikely event - despite their already being two ties in the league this year - making sure the Dolphins will cover that scenario is part of the rooting guide. That means Tennessee losing here is needed. Root for: Jacksonville.
The other half of the Patriots’ scenario to clinch the top seed in the conference is seeing the Raiders lose here. An Indianapolis win will keep them alive in the AFC South, with (when we get to the next game) the two teams ahead of them in the standings both losing in the rooting guide this week, but the Colts are not a threat to the Dolphins in the AFC Wildcard hunt, so a win here is fine. Root for: Indianapolis.
The Bengals are eliminated from playoff contention already, so they coming away with a win does nothing to hurt the Dolphins. The Texans are another one of those teams in the Dolphins tie in Week 16 playoff clinching scenarios, so a Houston loss is a good thing for Miami. Root for: Cincinnati.
The Steelers can clinch the AFC North if they win this game. Seeing Pittsburgh win and Baltimore pick up another loss and keep them from being a factor in the Wildcard race is probably the best scenario at this point, given Baltimore’s head-to-head victory over the Dolphins - plus, Miami at least beat the Steelers this year, so there has to be at least a little hope they could do it again in the Playoffs, while Baltimore demolished Miami this year, and a postseason match-up against the Ravens would not exactly instill confidence. Root for: Pittsburgh.
Yep, everyone knows if the Dolphins win and the Broncos lose, Miami is in the playoffs this year. But, this game is a little more confusing than it initially looks. See, if the Broncos win and Miami wins, the Dolphins actually move ahead of the Chiefs and into the fifth seed position. It is a tempting way to look at this week. That leaves too much to chance in Week 17, though, including Miami needing to win over the Patriots (mathematically, they could still get in the postseason with losses this week and next week, but it is trickier and brings more teams into play needing to lose). The Dolphins could still move into the fifth seed in Week 17, so this week needs to be focused on clinching the playoff berth. Root for: Kansas City.
Games not considered
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
San Diego Chargers (5-8-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-14)
Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
AFC Playoff Picture based on rooting guide results:
1. New England Patriots (13-2) - Clinched AFC East championship, home-field advantage
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) - AFC West leader; Clinched playoff berth
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) - Clinched AFC North championship
4. Houston Texans (8-7) - AFC South leader
5. Oakland Raiders (11-4) - Wildcard 1; Clinched playoff berth
6. Miami Dolphins (10-5) - Wildcard 2; Clinched playoff berth