After not publishing this last week (I was out of town and did not have a chance to put it together), The Phinsider’s Dolphins fan rooting guide returns for Week 3. This is basically a guide to how games need to fall for the Dolphins to make the playoffs. Of course, we are early in the year, so a lot could change - and games that we ruled one way now could come back to haunt the Dolphins later when tie breakers start being used.
The basic rules for most of the game is that you root the Dolphins, for NFC teams over AFC teams, and you do not root for teams in the AFC East. Later in the year, when strengths of victory and the surprises of the season - “bad” teams being good and “good” teams being bad - this will adjust, but we are still early in the season so those basic rules likely apply.
Thursday night’s game went well for the Dolphins, with the Cleveland Browns coming away with their first win in 635 days by beating Miami’s AFC East rival New York Jets. That was the right way for that game to fall, even if the Browns think they could still be in the AFC Wildcard picture.
As for the Sunday and Monday games, here we go:
This game would normally fall off the rooting guide because it is an NFC versus NFC game, but the Dolphins do play the Packers later this year, so a better Green Bay record potentially helps Miami’s strength of schedule/strength of victory tie breakers. Root for: Packers.
AFC team versus NFC team. Add in the assumption that if Indianapolis is to make the playoffs, it would be in the Wildcard position because Jacksonville appears to be in position to win the AFC South, and that makes this a really simple choice. Root for: Eagles.
You could make the argument that a Bills win would be more helpful for the Dolphins than a Vikings win since Miami plays both teams this year, and the strength of schedule for the Bills is counted double for Miami compared to the Vikings, but at the end of the day, the Bills are still an AFC East team that needs to fall away from Miami. Root for: Vikings.
Raiders at Dolphins - 1pm ET
Root for: Dolphins
Miami does not play either team this year (seems strange to say that given Miami seems to play Baltimore every year), so this game is all about the Wildcard positioning for both teams. The Broncos are currently tied for the lead in the AFC West with Kansas City while the Ravens are in third in the AFC North behind Cincinnati and Cleveland (given the Browns’ three-games already played). Kansas City looks really good, while Cincinnati and Cleveland look less likely to continue near the top of their division. That means we will assume the Ravens have a better chance to win the AFC North than Denver has to win the AFC West, putting Denver closer to the Wildcard. Root for: Ravens.
Assuming the Ravens would win the AFC North pretty much settled this game. Add in the AFC versus NFC piece and the chance to knock off one of the remaining undefeated teams in the league and it was easy. Root for: Panthers.
NFC versus AFC. Easy. Root for: Giants.
The Jaguars win this and they basically take firm grasp of the AFC South, possibly with a two game lead after three weeks (assuming an Indianapolis loss as listed above). That is good for Miami. A second loss for the Titans on the year is also a good result for the Dolphins. Slight argument for the Titans to get the win for a strength of schedule/victory tie break for Miami, but the Dolphins play the Jaguars later this year, which offsets this game in the long run. Root for: Jaguars.
NFC versus AFC seems to say this should be an easy option. However, we earlier assumed the Chiefs would win the AFC West while the Broncos fought for a Wildcard spot. That seems like a better situation than Miami trying to out-duel the Chiefs for that Wildcard spot. Let Kansas City get out to a lead in the division. Root for: Chiefs.
The Battle of Los Angeles is easy. The Chargers need to lose so that they fall further behind the Dolphins in the Wildcard picture. Root for: Rams.
Another NFC versus NFC game makes the list because the Dolphins play the Bears, so the strength of schedule/victory tiebreak could come into play. Root for: Bears.
AFC East vs. NFC, though Miami plays the Lions later this year. The more losses the Patriots can get, the better for Miami. Can you imagine Miami having a two-game lead over the Patriots heading into their first meeting of the year? It could happen if Detroit shows up for this game. Root for: Lions.
AFC versus NFC. The Steelers are weird this year, in part without Le’Veon Bell, in part because Antonio Brown seems to be bristling about something, and in part because a really good team is 0-1-1 this season. 0-2-1 would look better for Miami. Root for: Buccaneers.
Games without consequence for Dolphins