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Miami Dolphins path to the playoffs 2016

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The Miami Dolphins can make the playoffs, but what do they need to do to make it happen?

San Francisco 49ers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have two games remaining in the 2016 NFL regular season, which gives them two weeks to turn a surprising season into a playoff berth season. We are all tracking the easiest of the team’s path to the playoffs - specifically two wins over the last two weeks, or a win and a Denver Broncos loss in Week 16 - but how else can the Dolphins make the playoffs?

It is time to explore the remaining NFL schedule and figure out what needs to happen for Miami to keep playing football into January.

Dolphins win in Week 16

Miami plays the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, a game that, with a Miami win, goes a long way toward finishing their fight for the postseason. What else needs to happen with a Week 16 win for Miami?

The Dolphins clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 if:

  • Dolphins win at Buffalo in Week 16 and Denver loses at Kansas City in Week 16

The Dolphins clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 if:

  • Dolphins win at Buffalo in Week 16 and Dolphins win versus New England in Week 17
  • Dolphins win at Buffalo in Week 16 and Denver loses versus Oakland in Week 17
  • Dolphins win at Buffalo in Week 16 and Kansas City loses at San Diego in Week 17

Dolphins tie in Week 16

There are two methods for Miami to clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 if they tie at Buffalo. There are other methods for Miami to tie in Week 16 and still clinch a Playoff berth in Week 17, but they are numerous - and very similar to the path if Miami loses in Week 16.

The Dolphins clinch a playoff berth in Week 16 if:

  • Dolphins tie at Buffalo in Week 16 and Baltimore loses at Pittsburgh in Week 16 and Denver loses at Kansas City in Week 16 and Houston loses/ties versus Cincinnati in Week 16
  • Dolphins tie at Buffalo in Week 16 and Baltimore loses at Pittsburgh in Week 16 and Denver loses at Kansas City in Week 16 and Tennessee loses/ties at Jacksonville in Week 16

Dolphins lose in Week 16

The Dolphins’ playoff chances will be hurt in Week 16 with a loss, but it will not end their playoff hopes - in fact, as you will see, Miami can lose in Week 16 and Week 17 and still make the playoffs (in an incredible long shot):

Dolphins clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 if:

  • Dolphins at Buffalo in Week 16 and Dolphins win versus New England in Week 17 and Denver loses in Week 16 at Kansas City or Denver loses at Oakland in Week 17
  • Dolphins at Buffalo in Week 16 and Dolphins win versus New England in Week 17 and Kansas City loses at San Diego in Week 17
  • Dolphins lose at Buffalo in Week 16 and Dolphins lose versus New England in Week 17 and Denver loses in Week 16 at Kansas City and loses versus Oakland in Week 17 and Baltimore loses at Pittsburgh in Week 16 and at Cincinnati in Week 17 and Indianapolis loses either at Oakland in Week 16 or versus Jacksonville in Week 17 and the AFC South second-place team (Houston or Tennessee) finishes with an 8-8 record (two losses)
  • There may be other ways Miami can lose both games and still make it to the Playoffs, but given this took seven games all falling the right way, it becomes madness to try to figure it all out.

How can Miami become the fifth seed?

This question is popping up a lot right now. At this point, personally, I am more concerned with actually making the postseason than trying to game the system into a match-up with the fourth seed (likely either Houston or Tennessee). However, since it is a question that is being asked, as well as a possibility, here is what needs to happen for Miami to be in the top Wildcard position:

  • Dolphins have to tie Kansas City at 10-6 or 11-5. Miami will have to win one more game over the next two weeks than Kansas City wins to make up the current one game difference between the two teams. If Kansas City loses to Denver in Week 16, it would keep Miami from clinching their playoff berth until Week 17.
  • Miami also needs Pittsburgh to beat Baltimore in Week 16 or Pittsburgh to lose both of their remaining games. If Baltimore wins in both Week 16 and 17, and Pittsburgh then wins in Week 17 against Cleveland, the Steelers will move into the fifth position over Miami due to a three-way tie-break between Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Miami.
  • A Baltimore win in Week 16 and loss in Week 17 with a Pittsburgh loss to Cleveland in Week 17 would give Miami the fifth seed, but could also move Baltimore into the fourth seed, which would defeat the reason this question is currently being asked.