The NFL schedule is on to Week 16 - finally. After having Week 15 extended to Tuesday night with two games, we now immediately turn around and prepare for Thursday Night Football tomorrow to kickoff Week 16. This could be a critical week for the Miami Dolphins in their pursuit of the postseason, with the possibility that, should everything go right, they find themselves actually in a playoff spot by the end of the week.
The Dolphins play on Monday this week, meaning we will all get to see how the week shakes out before Miami is on the field. They are back on the road for the first time since Week 11, and they are heading to Louisiana to face the New Orleans Saints, so it will not be an easy weekend for the team, but the Saints are not the Drew Brees at home Saints either.
With the postseason actually a possibility for the Dolphins this year, which would make them the first team to ever start 1-7 and make the playoffs, we take a look this morning at the AFC playoff picture and the current odds for each team’s Week 16 game. Odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook as of Wednesday morning.
AFC Playoff Picture
1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4, AFC West leader)
Week 15 results: W, 34-28 (OT) at Los Angeles Chargers
Week 16 opponent: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25pm ET, 12/26
Chiefs favored by 7.5. The Dolphins need the Steelers to pick up the loss, plus, if Kansas City can hold on to the top seed, it ensures the eventually AFC East winner - likely either the New England Patriots or Buffalo Bills - will not get the bye week to start the playoffs. It might be petty, but I like it. The Chiefs are starting to have some of the COVID-19 issues we saw hit the NFL hard last week, so that will have to be watched.
2. New England Patriots (9-5, AFC East leader)
Week 15 results: L, 27-17 at Indianapolis Colts
Week 16 opponent: vs. Buffalo Bills, 1pm ET, 12/26
Patriots favored by 2.5. This may be the most important game on the slate for the Dolphins outside of their own contest. The current AFC East playoff chances, according to Five Thirty-Eight, have the Patriots and 98 percent to make the postseason, the Bills at 77 percent, and the Dolphins at 11 percent. A Bills win pushed New England down to 94 percent, the Bills up to 98 percent, and the Dolphins up to 16 percent. Add in a Miami win, and those numbers become 91 percent, 98 percent, and 30 percent. Miami could really use the upset here.
3. Tennessee Titans (9-5, AFC South leader)
Week 15 results: L, 19-13 at Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 16 opponent: vs. San Francisco 49ers, 8:20pm ET, 12/23
Titans 3.5-point underdogs. The goal previously was to see the Titans run away with the AFC South so they were not involved in the Wildcard hunt, but the Titans are struggling right now and Miami still plays them this season. It actually makes more sense to have Tennessee fall into the Wildcard picture, where Miami can claim a head-to-head tie break over them, than to keep the Indianapolis Colts in the Wildcard fight. Since this is about the Dolphins making the playoffs, we will ignore the benefit in the draft that Miami would receive with additional San Francisco losses.
4. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, AFC North leader)
Week 15 results: W, 15-10 at Denver Broncos
Week 16 opponent: vs. Baltimore Ravens, 1pm ET, 12/26
Bengals favored by 2.5. The Bengals have climbed into the top spot in the AFC North, and that could be a good thing for Miami. The Dolphins have the head-to-head tie break on the Ravens, making them the better team to have in the Wildcard hunt.
5. Indianapolis Colts (8-6, Wildcard 1)
Week 15 results: W, 27-17 vs. New England Patriots
Week 16 opponent: at Arizona Cardinals, 8:15pm ET, 12/25
Colts 1-point underdogs. Is this a belief in the Colts or doubt in the Cardinals? If the Titans are to fall into the Wildcard race, the Colts have to overtake them, which would mean an upset win here.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6, Wildcard 2)
Week 15 results: L, 34-28 (OT) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 16 opponent: at Houston Texans, 1pm ET, 12/26
Chargers favored by 9. Miami could use the Chargers losing, but the oddsmakers have made it clear they do not see an upset from the Texans coming here.
7. Buffalo Bills (8-6, Wildcard 3)
Week 15 results: W, 31-14 vs. Carolina Panthers
Week 16 opponent: at New England Patriots, 1pm ET, 12/16
Bills 2.5-point underdogs. As discussed above, the Bills winning the AFC East helps Miami the most. As much as you might hate needing the Bills to win, remember the Patriots losing is the goal.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
Week 15 results: L, 31-30 vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 16 opponent: at Cincinnati Bengals, 1pm ET, 12/26
Ravens 2.5-point underdogs. The Ravens falling to 8-7 would put them within a half-game of Miami, who does not play until Monday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)
Week 15 results: W, 19-13 vs. Tennessee Titans
Week 16 opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25pm, 12/26
Steelers 7.5-point underdogs. This is a good spread for the Dolphins. With this result, the Steelers drop back to .500 on the year and Miami could move ahead of them in the standings.
Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
Week 15 results: W, 16-14 at Cleveland Browns
Week 16 opponent: vs. Denver Broncos, 4:25pm ET, 12/26
Raiders favored by 1.5. This game really does not have a lot of impact on Miami’s playoff chances, basically because one of the teams climbs to 8-7 on the year, while the other drops to 7-8. It is just slightly better for the Dolphins to have the Raiders lose.
Miami Dolphins (7-7)
Week 15 results: W, 31-24 vs. New York Jets
Week 16 opponent: at New Orleans Saints, 8:15pm 12/27
Dolphins 3-point underdogs. Obviously, the Dolphins need the upset win here.
Cleveland Browns (7-7)
Week 15 results: L, 16-14 vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Week 16 opponent: at Green Bay Packers, 4:30pm ET, 12/25
Browns 7-point underdogs. Having an NFC team beat a team tied with the Dolphins in the AFC Wildcard hunt is a good result.
Denver Broncos (7-7)
Week 15 results: L, 15-10 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 16 opponent: at Las Vegas Raiders, 4:25pm, 12/26
Broncos 1.5-point underdogs. As written above, Five Thirty-Eight currently lists Miami as having an 11-percent chance to make the playoffs. With a Raiders win, that drops to 10 percent, while a Broncos win moves Miami to 12 percent. Again, a Denver upset win is slightly better for the Dolphins.
Teams eliminated from AFC playoffs:
New York Jets (3-11)
Houston Texans (3-11)
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)