The Miami Dolphins - and the rest of the AFC East - are off this week, their one scheduled bye week for the 2018 NFL season. All over the league’s schedule, however, are games that impact the Dolphins’ playoff chances. At 5-5 on the season and in eighth place in the AFC, the Dolphins need some help if they are going to contend for the postseason, and they could use that help starting now.
As we are getting later into the season, the standings are starting to solidify, meaning we are getting a better idea of who is in position to win their division, who is in the AFC Wildcard picture, and where the Dolphins can use wins and losses for strength of schedule/victory tie breaks. Looking at the Week 11 schedule, here are how the games impact Miami and which way helps the team the most.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, 1pm ET - The Bengals are currently the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture, holding the second Wildcard spot with a 5-4 record. The Ravens, meanwhile, are 4-5 on the season, just behind Miami in the standings. It is hard to want to see the Ravens move up to 5-5, but seeing the Bengals move to a full game ahead of Miami is not right either. At the end of the day, rooting for Cincinnati to start losing - especially since they hold the head-to-head tie break over the Dolphins - is the best option for Miami. Root for: Ravens.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1pm ET - This is another fun one for the Dolphins. The Steelers are leading their division, ahead of the Bengals and Ravens, while the Jaguars are 3-6 on the year and quickly falling away. The Dolphins play the Jaguars later this year, so a stronger strength of victory/schedule could be an option with a Jacksonville win, but keeping the Steelers out ahead in the division seems to be a better option. Plus, the Steelers remaining in the second seed keeps New England in the third seed and away from a bye week, which would be an added benefit. Root for: Steelers.
Houston Texans at Washington Redskins, 1pm ET - The normal answer is to root for the NFC team against the AFC team, but this one breaks that trend. The Texans are currently leading the AFC South by one game over Tennessee. That is the best way for the division to finish for Miami - who faces all four teams in the division this year - because Houston beat Miami, but the Dolphins beat Tennessee. If it comes down to head-to-head tie breaks, Miami going up against Tennessee is the better result. Root for: Texans.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts, 1pm ET - This is another one of those situations where losses by both teams make sense for Miami. As discussed in the Texans games, the Dolphins already have the head-to-head tie break on the Titans, but Tennessee is a half-game ahead of Miami in the standings, so a loss helps there. The Colts, meanwhile, are half a game behind the Dolphins in the standings, so a win would bring them up to Miami in the standings. The Dolphins face the Colts this year, so they can offset that move by Indianapolis easier than they can afford to see the Titans pull further ahead. Root for: Colts.
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions, 1pm ET - This game normally would not matter, given it is NFC versus NFC, but the Dolphins did play the Lions this year, so there is some strength of schedule tie break options there. Root for: Lions.
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05pm ET - The Chargers are currently in the fifth seed position, the first Wildcard spot in the AFC, while the Broncos are 3-6. Los Angeles losing could bring them a little closer to Miami being able to fight for not two playoff positions (AFC East and Wildcard 2) but for three with Wildcard 1 in play. Root for: Broncos.
Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05pm ET - At 1-8, the Raiders are really in the fight for the first-overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft, but they are still mathematically in contention for a playoff berth if they can get on a hot streak to end the season. The Dolphins beat the Raiders early this season, so a win could help Miami’s strength of schedule/victory tiebreaks. I guess that is reason enough to hope for an Oakland win. Root for: Raiders.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, 8:20pm ET - The Dolphins beat the Bears in Week 6 and face the Vikings in Week 15, so this NFC versus NFC matchup actually does have impacts on Miami. At the end of the day, the win or loss does not mean a lot if Miami wins over the Vikings, but since that is still to be decided, a win for the Bears guarantees a better strength of victory tiebreak for the Dolphins. Root for: Bears.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15pm ET - Honestly, this game has no bearing on the Dolphins. The Chiefs are in the top seed position for the AFC, while the Rams are in the top spot in the NFC. This should be an outstanding game. The only reason it is here on the list is because the Chiefs holding the top spot in the AFC means the Patriots cannot make up the two game leas the Chiefs have on them for that home-field advantage position. Root for: Chiefs.
No impact on Dolphins
Post-Week 11 AFC standings according to rooting guide:
1 - Kansas City Chiefs
2 - Pittsburgh Steelers
3 - New England Patriots
4 - Houston Texans
5 - Los Angeles Chargers
6 - Baltimore Ravens
7 - Cincinnati Bengals
8 - Miami Dolphins
9 - Indianapolis Colts
10 - Tennessee Titans
11 - Denver Broncos
12 - Cleveland Browns
13 - Buffalo Bills
14 - Jacksonville Jaguars
15 - New York Jets
16 - Oakland Raiders