The Miami Dolphins just need to win their final two games of the 2021 regular season to clinch a playoff berth. It is a fairly simple method to get into the championship tournament and have a shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. Standing between Miami and those two wins, however, are two teams with a lot still on the table for them this year as well. Miami will have to beat the Tennessee Titans later today, then come away with a win against the New England Patriots in Miami to assure their spot in the postseason.
Of course, they could lose and still make the playoffs, but they are going to need help if that is to happen. Our rooting guide, looking at every game on the schedule for Week 17, will help make sense of where Miami could use some assistance.
The basic rule is still in play: An NFC team should almost always beat an AFC team to help the Dolphins. Miami is not out of the AFC East division title - as slim as that hope is - so division rival losses are also almost always a good thing for Miami.
Of course, root for the Dolphins to beat the Titans.
This falls squarely into the rules. An NFC team visiting an AFC team, plus an AFC team tied with the Dolphins at 8-7. Easy one. Root for: Los Angeles.
Another obvious one which follows the rules. The Patriots are (a) an AFC East team and (b) a team ahead of Miami in the Wildcard standings. This is a 16-point line in favor of the Patriots, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, so there is not a lot of expectation for the Jaguars to pull off the upset, but that would be the best result for Miami. Root for: Jacksonville.
This game feels like you could call it a toss-up, given the Colts are in the Wildcard position and a game ahead of Miami, so a loss by them would keep them within reach of Miami should Miami not win on Sunday or keep the fifth-seed in play for Miami should the Dolphins win against the Titans. However, the Raiders are tied with Miami at 8-7, and actually have the tiebreak over the Dolphins if they are in a tie that does not include the Los Angeles Chargers. As such, it makes much more sense for the Dolphins’ playoff chances for the Raiders to lose. According to Five Thirty Eight, the Dolphins have a 32 percent chance to make the playoffs heading into the week. A Raiders win drops them to 29 percent - and is one part of the scenario that would eliminate the Dolphins this week should everything go horribly wrong for Miami - while a Las Vegas loss improves the Dolphins’ playoff chances to 33 percent. Root for: Indianapolis.
This game actually does not impact the Dolphins as much as you would think, mostly because both of these teams should win their respective divisions at this point. While the Five Thirty Eight simulator actually gives Miami a one-percentage-point boost for a Bengals win, it actually makes more sense for the Chiefs to win here, then Cincinnati to win next week for the Dolphins. Root for: Kansas City
An NFC team versus an AFC team, and an AFC East team at that. The Dolphins' slim chance for an AFC East division title jumps from 0.6 percent to 3 percent if the Bills lose, so why not? It’s a slim chance, especially given the Bills’ Week 18 game against the New York Jets, but...Root for: Atlanta
A rule breaker. The Texans are out of AFC playoff contention, but the 49ers, despite being an NFC team, matter to the Dolphins. Miami has San Francisco’s first-round draft pick in 2022, so getting them to somehow fall out of playoff contention would be helpful for the Dolphins in the future. The Texans beat the Chargers last week. They could pull off another upset this week, right? Root for: Houston
Denver is 7-8 on the year and in the 13th position in the playoff picture. The Chargers are 8-7 and tied with the Dolphins. The Broncos beating the Chargers is the best result here, even if it causes Miami to briefly fall out of a playoff spot should the Raiders win and the Chargers are not there to eliminate the Raiders from a multi-team tie. Given the Raiders and Chargers face off in Week 18, the tiebreak is probably not going to be needed. Root for: Denver.
That stupid tie is going to be the death of me. The Steelers are 7-7-1 and Miami needs to keep them out of the Wildcard picture. The Browns are 7-8, so a win from them is not exactly a good thing, either, but it is the better option when looking toward the playoff, where the Browns could win here, then lose to the Bengals in Week 18, and it clears them out of the playoffs for Miami. Root for: Cleveland.
Games not impacting Dolphins:
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
New York Giants at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET, Jan. 2
AFC Playoff Picture if all results were to happen:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
2. Tennessee Titans (10-6)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
4. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
5. Indianapolis Colts (10-6)
6. Miami Dolphins (9-7)
7. New England Patriots (9-7)