Last week, I really enjoyed taking a look at the point spreads for the AFC, and where the Miami Dolphins need an upset to assist their playoff chances. Since I liked it, I decided to bring is back this week as well.
Here is the current AFC playoff picture, with the results for each team from last week and their next scheduled opponent. A look at the current point spread, provided by DraftKings Sportsbook, for each team and what the Dolphins need from that game follows.
All of this is assuming Miami can win this weekend against the New York Jets. A loss does not mathematically eliminate Miami, but it would just about end any hopes of a miraculous comeback from 1-7 to the postseason. For the commentary below, I assume Miami wins and moves to 7-7.
1. New England Patriots (9-4, AFC East leader)
Week 14 results: Bye
Week 15 opponent: @ Indianapolis Colts, 8:20pm ET, 12/18
New England is a 2.5-point underdog in this game, which is actually a little surprising. The Patriots are the top seed right now in the league, and everyone seems to be expecting them to return to being the Patriots team we have seen for the last 20 years. Yet, they are underdogs to Indianapolis, who are also coming off their bye week for this game. It is only a 2.5-point spread, so if you assume the three-points given to a home team, the Patriots are seen as a half-point ahead of the Colts at this point. The Patriots seem like it is only a matter of time for them to lock down the AFC East title, so a win here from New England will be beneficial for the Dolphins as the Colts pick up another loss.
2. Tennessee Titans (9-4, AFC South leader)
Week 14 results: Win, 20-0 vs. Jacksonville
Week 15 opponent: @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 10am ET, 12/19
Tennessee is a two-point favorite over the Steelers early in the week, but I would not be surprised if this moves a little more toward the Titans. The lack of Derrick Henry is holding back Tennessee, but the Steelers are not exactly a dominating team right now. The offense has not felt like it is playing up to potential and the defense is struggling to contain the run. If the Titans can establish any sort of run game, they should be able to cover here. A Tennessee win over the Steelers is the ideal result for Miami, so the line supports that right now.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-4, AFC West leader)
Week 14 results: Win, 48-9 vs. Las Vegas
Week 15 opponent: @ Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20pm ET, 12/16
Kansas City is a three-point favorite over the Chargers. The Chiefs look like they are on a roll now, putting their mid-season slump behind them and looking like a team that is once again a contender for a Super Bowl championship. The Chargers are a team that can challenge the Chiefs, but this line seems a little closer than I would have expected. Chalk it up to the Chargers not only being the home team but being the home team for a Thursday night game, and maybe that factors into this game being listed with only a three-point spread. Kansas City should win the AFC West, so a win over the Chargers is helpful for the Dolphins as Los Angeles would fall back to 7-7.
4. Baltimore Ravens (8-5, AFC North leader)
Week 14 results: Loss, 24-22 @ Cleveland
Week 15 opponent: vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:25pm ET, 12/19
The Ravens are five-point underdogs to Green Bay. Baltimore are expecting Lamar Jackson to be available for the game after spraining his ankle against the Browns last week, but not having Jackson at full strength probably impacts this line a little. Green Bay appears to be rolling right now, so the Ravens will face a tough game to come away with the upset here. Miami needs someone to take charge of the AFC North, with the Ravens having the advantage here. A loss by Baltimore would not be a horrible situation for the Dolphins, however, as it would move them to 8-6, a game ahead of Miami (assuming a Dolphins win), and Miami has the head-to-head tie break on Baltimore. If the Ravens lose here, they could be within striking distance of the Dolphins if Cincinnati, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh move ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-5, Wildcard 1)
Week 14 results: Win, 37-21 vs. New York Giants
Week 15 opponent: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20pm ET, 12/16
The Chargers are 8-5 and look like they a firmly in control of a Wildcard berth. They have an 86 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Five Thirty Eight, but they are not so far ahead of Miami that the possibility of the Dolphins surpassing them is out of the realm of possibility. If the Chiefs can beat them, and Kansas City is a three-point favorite right now, that would drop them to 8-6 and, similar to the Ravens, Miami could be only a game behind them by the end of the weekend.
6. Indianapolis Colts (7-6, Wildcard 2)
Week 14 results: Bye
Week 15 opponent: vs. New England Patriots, 8:20pm ET, 12/18
This is where the Dolphins can really see some changes to their playoff hopes, with the second- and third-Wildcard positions hovering right around the .500 mark, and the Dolphins hoping to be at .500 after the weekend. The Colts are 2.5-point favorites over the Patriots, so Miami fans need to hope New England pulls off an upset - as unenjoyable as watching a Patriots win would be. Getting the Colts down to 7-7 would allow Miami to tie them - though Indianapolis has the head-to-head tie break.
7. Buffalo Bills (7-6, Wildcard 3)
Week 14 results: Loss, 33-27 (OT) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 15 opponent: vs. Carolina Panthers, 1pm ET, 12/19
The Bills look to end a two-game losing streak with a win over the Carolina Panthers. Buffalo is favored by 10.5 points, and, at this point, there is no reason to think this will not go Buffalo’s way. The game actually opened with the Bills favored by 12, coming down to 10.5 points over the first couple of days of the week. Josh Allen was in a walking boot after the team’s game against the Buccaneers and has a sprained left foot, though he has not been ruled out for the game. If Buffalo is without Allen, this line could quickly move back toward the Panthers. A Carolina upset would actually hurt Miami in the short-term, because the Bills swept the Dolphins this season, but it could put the Dolphins in position to move into second place in the AFC East in Week 16 (Bills at Patriots, Dolphins at Saints on Monday).
8. Cleveland Browns (7-6)
Week 14 results: Win, 24-22 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 15 opponent: vs. Las Vegas Raiders, 4:30pm ET, 11/18
The Browns are favored by three over the Raiders, and this game really is a toss up when it comes to Miami’s playoff chances. With no results other than a Miami win on Sunday, the Dolphins have a 12 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Five Thirty Eight. A Browns win drops Miami to an 11 percent chance. A Raiders win, also moves Miami to an 11 percent chance to make the postseason. This game is about the long-run. Las Vegas seems to be falling apart right now, while the Browns as playing well. Likely the best result is to have the Browns lose so they fall to 7-7, despite that making the Raiders also 7-7.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6)
Week 14 results: Loss, 26-23 (OT) vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 15 opponent: @ Denver Broncos, 4:05pm ET 11/19
The Bengals are two-point underdogs on the road here, but this is another game that really does not impact Miami’s playoff chances that much, given it is two teams starting the week at 7-6. One team will fall to 7-7, while the other will move to 8-6 and (presumably) one game ahead of Miami.
10. Denver Broncos (7-6)
Week 14 results: Win, 38-10 vs. Detroit Lions
Week 15 opponent: vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4:05pm ET, 11/19
The Broncos get the slight nod over the Bengals on the spread, sitting as a two-point favorite, one point under the normal three-points a home team receives. As above, the Dolphins really need both of these teams picking up losses, so either one dropping this game is fine.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-1)
Week 14 results: Loss, 36-28 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Week 15 opponent: vs. Tennessee Titans, 1pm ET, 12/19
The Steelers are home underdogs, getting two points from the Titans. As stated above, the Titans winning is ideal for the Dolphins. Pittsburgh at 6-7-1 falls behind a 7-7 Miami team.
12. Las Vegas Raiders (6-7)
Week 14 results: Loss, 48-9 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 15 opponent: @ Cleveland Browns, 4:30pm, 12/18
The Browns are favored by three points. As pointed out above, the game really does not impact Miami’s playoff chances much. Having Las Vegas come away with the upset win is probably the best result, with Cleveland and Las Vegas at 7-7 along with Miami, rather than Cleveland at 8-6 and still a game ahead of the Dolphins.
13. Miami Dolphins (6-7)
Week 14 results: Bye
Week 15 opponent: vs. New York Jets, 1pm ET, 12/19
The Dolphins are 8.5-point favorites against the Jets. The Dolphins need to win this game to keep their playoff chances moving forward.
Eliminated from playoff contention: New York Jets, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars