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NFL Playoff Picture 2021 Week 13: Dolphins continue to claw back into AFC standings

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins extended their win streak to four games on Sunday with a beatdown of the Carolina Panthers. The win moved the Dolphins to 5-7 on the season and kept their slim playoff hopes alive. No team has ever started 1-7 and made the postseason, but the Dolphins are trying to do exactly that.

While most of the playoff picture graphics being used right now do not include the Dolphins, they are getting close to breaking back into the picture. Will they be able to claw their way back into the playoff picture? Could they actually make the playoffs, despite having already had a seven-game losing streak this year?

The Baltimore Ravens are currently in the top spot in the AFC North and the AFC playoffs, holding an 8-3 record. Just behind them are the AFC East-leading New England Patriots and the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans, both of whom are 8-4; the Patriots hold the head-to-head tie break after beating Tennessee on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs round out the division leaders, sitting in the fourth seed with a 7-4 record.

The three Wildcard spots are held by the Cincinnati Bengals with a 7-4 record, the Buffalo Bills also at 7-4, and the Los Angeles Chargers at 6-5. The Bengals edge ahead of Buffalo due to AFC win percentage.

On the outside looking in are the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, who are both tied with the Chargers at 6-5. All three teams are in the AFC West, with Los Angeles owning the best division record among the three through Week 12. The Raiders are ahead of Denver based on head-to-head records, with the teams scheduled to meet again in Week 16.

The tenth seed is held by the Indianapolis Colts at 6-6 on the year, edging ahead of the 5-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 6-6 Cleveland Browns. The NFL tiebreak procedures require intra-division ties to be resolved before inter-division ties, so the Steelers and Browns tie at .500 goes to the Steelers due to the head-to-head record, with the teams scheduled to meet again in Week 17. The tie between the Colts and Steelers goes to Indianapolis due to AFC win percentage.

The 13th spot currently belongs to Miami with their 5-7 record. The Dolphins have a ton of work they still have to do, and they need help from several teams in the conference, but they are not yet out of the picture either. Miami’s next two games are both home games, hosting the New York Giants in Week 13, then finally having their bye week in Week 14, followed by the second half of the annual New York Jets home-and-home series in Week 15. Even after that, the Dolphins head to Louisiana to face the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 and to Tennessee to face the Titans in Week 17, both of whom are up-and-down this year. If the Dolphins can keep playing as they have been, it is possible their Week 18 game against the New England Patriots, who Miami beat in New England in Week 1, could be for a shot at the playoffs. Despite being in the 13th seed, they are only 1.5 games out of the seventh seed, the final Wildcard spot.

The New York Jets are 3-8, in the 14th spot, while the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are 15th and 16th, both with 2-9 records. Houston edges ahead due to head-to-head results, with the teams scheduled to meet again in Week 15.

AFC Playoff Standings

1. Baltimore Ravens (8-3, AFC North leader)
2. New England Patriots (8-4, AFC East leader)
3. Tennessee Titans (8-4, AFC South leader)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, AFC West leader)

5. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4, Wildcard 1)
6. Buffalo Bills (7-4, Wildcard 2)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (6-5, Wildcard 3)

Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Denver Broncos (6-5)

Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
Cleveland Browns (6-6)

Miami Dolphins (5-7)

New York Jets (3-8)

Houston Texans (2-9)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

NFC Playoff Standings

(*Pending Seattle at Washington on Monday night)

1. Arizona Cardinals (9-2, NFC West leader)
2. Green Bay Packers (9-3, NFC North leader)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3, NFC South leader)
4. Dallas Cowboys (7-4, NFC East leader)

5. Los Angeles Rams (7-4, Wildcard 1)
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-5, Wildcard 2)
7. Minnesota Vikings (5-6, Wildcard 3)

Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Atlanta wins divisional tie break over New Orleans based on head-to-head results; Minnesota wins NFC win percentage tie break over Atlanta.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
Carolina Panthers (5-7)
Philadelphia wins tie break over Carolina based on head-to-head results.

Washington Football Team (4-6)*
A win on Monday Night Football would move Washington into the Wildcard 3 position.

New York Giants (4-7)
Chicago Bears (4-7)
New York wins tie break over Chicago based on NFC win percentage.

Seattle Seahawks (3-7)*

Detroit Lions (0-10-1)