Last week, we brought back a series of articles we used to do weekly late in the NFL season. It did not seem like a needed post earlier in the year, but somehow, even with a 6-8 record, the Miami Dolphins have clawed their way back into playoff contention, though they need a lot of help. This series, which started last week and will (hopefully) continue into next week, will breakdown which teams need to win or lose for the Dolphins to be able to make the post season for a second straight year.
The Dolphins cannot win the AFC East, with the New England Patriots clinching that position - again. That leaves the Dolphins fighting for one of the two Wildcard positions. The Baltimore Ravens winning on Saturday hurts Miami’s chances to get into the playoffs, but it does not end them.
The current AFC playoff picture is:
1. New England Patriots (11-3, AFC East champions)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3, AFC North champions)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4, AFC South leaders)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6, AFC West leaders)
5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6, Wildcard 1 leaders)*
6. Tennessee Titans (8-6, Wildcard 2 leaders)
* Week 16 game completed on Saturday
The first thing that has to happen for the Dolphins to make the playoffs is that they have to win out. Then, they obviously need the teams ahead of them to lose - with tiebreakers coming into play to move Miami from the bottom of the “in the hunt” group to one of the top six seeds in the tournament.
Miami Dolphins (6-8) at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 1pm ET
If the Dolphins have to win out, the rooting guide here is pretty simple. Root for: Miami.
Buffalo Bills (8-6) at New England Patriots
Sunday, 1pm ET
This is painful to say, but the Dolphins actually need the Patriots to win. Buffalo has to lose out for Miami to make the playoffs, with a loss here and then in Week 17 against the Dolphins, so again, pretty straight forward rooting guide. Root for: New England.
Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans (8-6)
Sunday, 1pm ET
Again, the Dolphins need a team to lose out, in this case the Titans. Playing against the Rams in Week 16 is a great start for Miami’s playoff chances. Root for: Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) at New York Jets
Sunday, 1pm ET
Things actually are a little better when it comes to the Chargers, with Miami really only needing one loss from Los Angeles. The west coast team traveling across the country to play a 1pm game could be a benefit for the Dolphins. As wrong as it seems, rooting for the Jets is the way to go here. Root for: New York.
Oakland Raiders (6-8) at Philadelphia Eagles
Monday, 8:30pm ET
Like the Chargers, the Raiders just need to lose one game for Miami’s playoff chances to stay realistic (well, as realistic as they can be). Facing the Eagles in Philadelphia is a tough contest, but gives Miami fans an easy rooting guide. Root for: Philadelphia.
If this were all play out exactly according to the rooting guide (along with assumptions that the Steelers beat the Houston Texans and the Jaguars beat the San Francisco 49ers just to keep seeding level), the AFC Playoff picture would look like:
1. New England Patriots (12-3, AFC East champions)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3, AFC North champions)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (11-4, AFC South champions)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (8-7, AFC West champions)
5. Baltimore Ravens (9-6, Wildcard 1 leaders)
6. Tennessee Titans (8-7, Wildcard 2 leaders)
Buffalo Bills (8-7)
Los Angeles Chargers (7-8)
Miami Dolphins (7-8)
Eliminated: Oakland Raiders (6-9)
Obviously, the Dolphins are not yet in the playoffs after Week 16 if everything goes correctly. They still need help in Week 17, where they would need to beat the Bills and have the Titans lose to the Jaguars. The Chargers and Raiders face each other in Week 17, so even if one of them wins in Week 16, the Dolphins could still see their playoff hopes remain alive, assuming the team that wins in Week 16 then loses in Week 17.
Basically, the Dolphins have to hope everyone in the hunt for that final Wildcard position falls to 8-8 on the season, where Miami comes out on top due to tie breakers - including a better AFC East record than the Bills (3-3 to 2-4) and a win over the Titans (and Chargers if they are in the tie).
The Dolphins can be eliminated this week if Buffalo or Tennessee win, pushing them to 9-6 on the year, with Miami unable to get to nine wins.