Well, things sure have gotten interesting now. Last night, the Indianapolis Colts smacked the New England Patriots in the mouth and suddenly the AFC East could tighten up. The Patriots are now 9-5 on the season, and, if this weekend goes well for the Miami Dolphins, they could find themselves tied for second in the division with the Buffalo Bills at 7-7, two games back of the Patriots. With three games to play, including the second-half of the annual home-and-home series against the Patriots, there is actually a chance where the Dolphins are not fighting for just a Wildcard spot, but possibly the division title as well.
Obviously, a lot has to go right for Miami, but the fact that the door is now cracked open is just another possibility in an incredible turnaround for Miami as they try to climb back from a 1-7 record. As we did last week we will take a look at the games for today (and Monday...and Tuesday) to put together our rooting guide for Miami Dolphins fans.
The basic rules are (a) NFC beating AFC teams and (b) AFC East teams losing. Tiebreaks and getting teams into their respective division title spot so Miami does not have to worry about them in the Wildcard chase does factor into breaking some of those rules, but we will note those exceptions below.
The AFC South is far from being decided with the Colts win yesterday. The Titans are sitting at 9-4 with Indianapolis now 8-6. A by the Titans could move them to within striking distance of the Colts, and given Miami still has to play the Titans, but have already lost to the Colts, it might not be a horrible option for the Dolphins to have Tennessee in the Wildcard picture, but Pittsburgh is still ahead of Miami in the Wildcard picture so wanting to see them pick up a loss and move behind the Dolphins makes sense. Root for: Tennessee.
This is fairly straightforward. The NFC team beating the AFC team is good. The AFC East team losing is good. There is a danger here with the tiebreaks as Buffalo swept the Dolphins this year, so every scenario includes the Bills eliminating the Dolphins in a tiebreak unless the Dolphins can get ahead of Buffalo’s record. Root for: Carolina.
This is one of those unfortunate games where Miami could use both teams losing. Both teams entire Sunday at 7-6, so a Dolphins win and the team that loses here land both teams in a 7-7 tie. According to Five Thirty Eight, this game really does not impact Miami’s overall playoff chances that much, no matter the result. After this week, the Bengals are home against the Baltimore Ravens, then host the Kansas City Chiefs, before ending the year at the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos have road games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers before ending the season at home against Kansas City. This is probably a coin-toss game, but we will say root for Cincinnati because they have the tougher schedule down the stretch, where they are most likely to lose games (but even that is close). Root for: Cincinnati.
Really, this game is included simply for the draft pick. Miami has San Francisco’s first-round pick this year, so the more losses they have, the better the pick the Dolphins have next year. Root for: Atlanta.
An NFC versus AFC team, and, if the Ravens fall into the Wildcard hunt, Miami has the head-to-head tie break. Root for: Green Bay.
This game is probably more of a coin toss than really a game that Miami needs to have fall one way or the other. However, if the plan is to have the Ravens fall back into the Wildcard hunt, the Browns need to move into the AFC North lead, which a win here and a Baltimore loss accomplishes. This is also a chance to get the Raiders, who are tied with Miami at 6-7 right now and have the head-to-head tie break on Miami, a full game behind the Dolphins. Makes sense. Root for: Cleveland.
Games with no real impact on the
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, 1pm ET Sunday - NFC vs. NFC; Miami does get a little boost in the strength of victory/schedule tiebreaks if it were to get that far, should New York win, so there is a little rooting piece there, but it is not much of a true impact on the Dolphins’ playoff chances.
AFC Playoff Picture if all results happen:
1. Tennessee Titans (10-4, AFC South leader)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4, AFC West leader)
3. New England Patriots (9-5, AFC East leader)
4. Cleveland Browns (8-6, AFC North leader)
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6, Wildcard 1)
6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6, Wildcard 2)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, Wildcard 3)
Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Buffalo Bills (7-7)
Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Denver Broncos (7-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7-1)
Las Vegas Raiders (6-8)