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How do the Dolphins Make the Playoffs?

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Win out! And get a little help.

Wild Card Round - Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers
Can he get us back again?
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

A month ago no one would have thought writing this article was going to be a necessity, a possibility, or even a pipe dream. This week Miami was: an 11 point underdog in their own stadium, on Monday Night Football, to the reigning Super Bowl Champions and division rival Patriots. Yet, here the Dolphins sit victorious at 6-7, one game out of the wild-card spot in a very mixed up AFC playoff field. They have a chance to save their season. So what will it take to get Miami into a meaningful January football game?

Rule 1:

Win Out! Plain and simple. The odds of an 8-8 team making the playoffs aren’t very good. Miami will need to sweep the Bills and beat the Chiefs in Arrow Head... which isn’t an easy task. That stadium is loud. And Buffalo is really, really, cold.

Rule 2:

If the Ravens (or Oakland, but much less likely) get to 9-7 along with the Dolphins, start hoping for a multi-team tie. Miami would need one other team to get into that bracket in order to have a chance. Miami currently has the head-to-head over the Titans and Chargers, and if they win out KC as well; not to mention pushing Buffalo to max 8-8, (likely-7-9). In that scenario, the Chiefs only path to 9-7 in that scenario gets them the AFC West. (Explanation below).

Rule 3: Tie-Breaker Procedure

Two Clubs

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss


Upcoming Schedule for the remaining wildcard hopeful teams...

Dolphins- Bills, Chiefs, Bills

Bills- Dolphins, Patriots, Dolphins

Ravens- Browns, Colts, Bengals

Titans- 49er’s, Rams, Jags

Chiefs- Chargers, Dolphins, Broncos

Chargers- Chiefs, Jets, Raiders

Raiders- Cowboys, Eagles, Chargers


If the Miami Dolphins win out, then the Bills are eliminated by default and will likely lose out including a loss to NE making for a 7-9 season for the Bills.

That also means the Chiefs would have to beat both the Chargers and the Broncos to get to 9-7. The Chargers are red hot right now and the Chiefs have been inconsistent to say the least. If the Chargers win next week could the Chiefs be on the way to an 8-8 season and missing out on the playoffs?

If the Chiefs beat the Chargers, but lose to Miami, they could get to 9-7 and win the division, even if the Chargers are also 9-7. That means the Chargers would be in the wildcard hunt. (It’s easier just to cheer for the Chargers to win out.)

The Cowboys are somehow still alive in the insane NFC race thanks to Morris and Smith, The Eagles are going to be playing run first football with Wentz lost for the season, and The Chargers have Melvin Gordon. It’s a bad time of year to be an Oakland team that can’t seem to stop anyone on the ground.

Riding that sinking wave is the Titans who have been lack luster at times. Mariota is not playing well, the defense is middle of the pack. They have eked out some close wins. They get the “New Look” 49’ers, whom could come with some surprises as the team seems to rally behind it’s new QB. They also get the Rams and the Jags. Two of the hottest teams in football going into December play. 1-2 or 0-3 is a possibility here.

On the other hand, The Ravens seem to have the easiest path to the playoffs. The Browns are bad. Very bad. Josh Gordon helps, but probably not enough. The Colts are bad. Andrew Luck, makes that team tick, without him they are lost. Then there are the Bengals. This is going to be another chippy game. Especially since the Bengals will be eliminated from playoff contention and looking to play spoiler. 3-0 or 2-1 is a distinct possibility from the Ravens.

Most Direct Path to the Playoffs-

4th Seed- Chargers 10-6

5th Seed- Ravens 10-6

6th Seed Dolphins 9-7


Titans 9-7 (see head-to-head rules) or 8-8 while losing out.

Chiefs 8-8

BIlls 7-9

Oakland 6-10

Now, there are a lot of other scenarios where there ends up a logjam of teams at 9-7. Based on conference schedule etc. a lot of these would actually put Miami in the 5th seed if they win out. However, those models get a lot more complex into the rules to tiebreakers. If you want to explore some scenarios, ESPN has an excellent “Playoff Machine” that has all the tie breaker rules built into it’s calculations.

Sound off in the comments if you have any questions. Or if you think I’m just flat out wrong on my view of how to get Miami to the playoffs. Or if you think I am insane for even dreaming of the playoffs still... whatever, haters gonna hate.