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NFL Playoff picture hinges on Dolphins at Ravens

The Dolphins at Ravens is the more important game of the week.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday is important for the Playoff chances for both teams. Miami is looking to keep a hold on the Wildcard spot in the AFC while potentially chasing down the New England Patriots in the AFC East division race, meaning they cannot afford a loss in this game. Thee Ravens are currently in the lead in the AFC North, but are tied record-wise with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and cannot afford a loss, either.

This game is critical for both teams. And, according to the statistics website FiveThirtyEight, it is actually the biggest game of the week for the league. FiveThirtyEight tracks the “swing” total for each game, basically the sum of the changes in percentages for teams to make or miss the playoffs based on the result of each game. For example, their statistics say Miami has a 35 percent chance of making the Playoffs heading into the game, which will become a 53 percent chance if Miami wins or a 20 percent chance if they lose. The difference based on this game is a 33 percent “swing” for the Dolphins. Then, the Ravens have a 30 percent swing (48 percent with a win, 18 percent with a loss). They then include the other teams that can be impacted by the game, like the Pittsburgh Steelers (78 percent with a Miami win, 48 percent with a Baltimore win), the Buffalo Bills (21 percent with a Miami win, 31 percent with a Baltimore win), and the Denver Broncos (46 percent with a Miami win, 55 percent with a Baltimore win).

In total, the swing for the game comes out to 115 points, the largest total in the league.

Explaining the game a little, FiveThirtyEight writes:

With a lot of season left, the AFC Wild Card is already down to a four-way (or five-way, depending on how you’re counting) race. Denver, Miami and Buffalo are in the hunt and have very low chances of winning their respective divisions. And whichever of Oakland and Kansas City fails to win the AFC West is in line for the first wild-card slot.

If the season ended today, Miami (on a six-game winning streak) would take the second slot on tiebreak. But our projections still think they’re a much worse team than the defending-champion Broncos, who have the same 7-4 record. A minor upset at Baltimore would go a long way toward shoring up the Dolphins’ playoff odds.

The Dolphins at Bills game is an important game in terms of the Playoffs, and not just for the teams actually taking to the field.