Week 16 of the NFL season features two Saturday games, 12 games on Sunday, and the Miami Dolphins facing the New Orleans Saints on Monday. With the Dolphins not playing until Monday night, this weekend will be a great opportunity to watch some football and hope things break Miami’s way in the playoff picture. What needs to happen? We take a look at all of the remaining games for the week, as well as what the Thursday Night Football game did in terms of Miami’s playoff chances.
The Tennessee Titans came away with a 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday, which made some decisions for how the rest of the rooting guide for the week would go. Tennessee losing could have allowed them to fall back into the Wildcard race, with the Dolphins scheduled for a visit to the Titans in Week 17, with the possibility that a win there could push Miami ahead of Tennessee in the standings. Now with the Titans winning, they are likely going to clinch the AFC South title - something that can happen later today if the Indianapolis Colts are to lose- it makes the most sense to have them win the division and the Colts remain the team Miami is fighting for a post-season berth. The Colts have the head-to-head tie break on the Dolphins, so Miami needs to move ahead of them record-wise if they are going to clinch a higher seed in the playoff picture.
The good news is, the 49ers losing could end up helping the Dolphins with their 2022 first-round draft pick. Miami has San Francisco’s pick and, should the 49ers fall out of playoff contention, that pick could end up being earlier than Miami’s own first-round pick - which belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, on to the rooting guide for the weekend:
Miami is tied with the Browns in the AFC playoff standings, but ahead of them based on AFC conference winning percentage. While the Packers are in the NFC, so a loss for the Browns does not impact the AFC winning percentage, a loss is a loss and would remove the tiebreak requirement should the Dolphins win. Root for: Green Bay.
The Colts are 8-6 and sitting in the fifth seed position right now. An Indianapolis loss and a Miami win would bring the two teams to a tie, with the Colts ahead based on their win over the Dolphins earlier this year. The Colts’ final two games are at home against the Las Vegas Raiders and a road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Indianapolis is likely to be favored in both of those games. Miami could use the loss here from the Colts to potentially surpass them if they are upset in either of the final two weeks. Root for: Arizona.
This one hurts. The ideal result for the Dolphins is the Bills winning the AFC East and the Patriots fall into the Wildcard race, where the Dolphins can clinch a season sweep with their division rival in Week 18. (All this assumes Miami does not climb their way into the AFC East title, which is still mathematically a possibility but very unlikely.) New England is currently 9-5, with Miami at 7-7. A loss to the Bills would drop them to 9-6, with a Miami win moving them to 8-7, just a game back - a game Miami could make up in the season finale. Buffalo is 8-6, so a loss this week would move them to 8-7 and a Miami win would tie them, but the Bills swept the Dolphins, so they have the tiebreak, and with the NFL rules for tiebreaks, they will eliminate the Dolphins every time there is a multi-team tie involving both teams. The ideal situation is to get the Bills out of the Wildcard hunt. Root for Buffalo.
An upset win by the Texans, who are getting ten points from the Chargers according to the latest odds from DraftKings Sportsbook, is the best scenario for the Dolphins. The Texans are already out of the playoffs, while the Chargers are 8-6 and in the sixth position. Miami could use a Los Angeles loss to tie up the standings. Root for: Houston.
This game really is a coin toss. You can make an argument both ways, but it all comes down to who is going to win the AFC North? That really is the question that has to be answered to try to figure out how to root for some of these games. Assuming the Bengals, who are currently in the lead, hold on to win the division - and a win in this game would be a huge step to making that happen - the Dolphins beat the Ravens this year to have the head-to-head tiebreak over them for the Wildcard hunt. Both teams are 8-6, so the team that loses could be caught by Miami on Monday night. We will use the current situation as the guide and say the Bengals are in control for the AFC North title. Root for: Cincinnati.
The Chiefs are sitting in the top spot of the AFC West and the AFC playoff seeding. The Steelers are 7-6-1 and in the ninth position. This is an easy one. Root for: Kansas City.
Denver is tied with Miami at 7-7, but they are behind the Dolphins in the standings due to a 3-6 record in the AFC, compared to Miami’s 5-5 mark. Las Vegas is tied with Miami at 7-7, but ahead of the Dolphins based on beating Miami earlier this year. The best-case scenario is Miami getting ahead of the Raiders so the tiebreak is removed, while a 4-6 record for the Broncos in the AFC still trails Miami’s 5-5 record, which cannot change this week. Root for: Denver.
Obviously, if Miami is going to make the playoffs, they need to keep winning. Root for: Miami.
Games with no playoff implications for Dolphins:
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m. ET, Dec. 26
AFC Playoff Picture if all these results happen:
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Buffalo Bills
5. New England Patriots
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Miami Dolphins