The 2022 NFL season is winding down with just three weeks remaining in the regular season. Teams are trying to position themselves for a postseason run, including the Miami Dolphins with a good chance to end their playoff drought. What needs to happen for Miami to make it to the postseason? They cannot clinch a berth this week, but they can get closer to claiming their spot, and, while they do control their own path to the postseason, they could see some help this week as well.
What needs to happen to improve Miami’s postseason chances? It is time to bring back the Miami Dolphins fan rooting guide. We break down each of the games on the schedule for Week 16 and determine which outcome best helps Miami get to the playoffs.
The pre-Week 16 playoff standings for both the AFC playoff picture and the NFC playoff seeding are:
1 - Buffalo Bills (11-3, AFC East leader)^
2 - Kansas City Chiefs (11-3, AFC West champion)+
3 - Cincinnati Bengals (10-4, AFC North leader)
4 - Tennessee Titans (7-7, AFC South leader)
5 - Baltimore Ravens (9-5, Wild Card 1)
6 - Los Angeles Chargers (8-6, Wild Card 2)
7 - Miami Dolphins (8-6, Wild Card 3)
1 - Philadelphia Eagles (13-1, NFC East leader)^
2 - Minnesota Vikings (11-3, NFC North champion)+
3 - San Francisco 49ers (10-4, NFC West champion)+
4 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8, NFC South leader)
5 - Dallas Cowboys (10-4, Wild Card 1)^
6 - New York Giants (8-5-1, Wild Card 2)
7 - Washington Commanders (7-6-1, Wild Card 3)
^Clinched playoff berth
+Clinched division title
Week 16 schedule and Dolphins fan rooting guide
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets, Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET - The Jaguars are 6-8 on the season, but are still in the playoff hunt. They most likely are looking at the AFC South division championship as their path to the playoffs, but they could be a factor in the wild card hunt as well. The Jets are 7-7, just a game behind the Dolphins in the AFC East and in the wild card hunt. It is better for Miami to see the Jets, who currently hold the head-to-head tiebreak over Miami (though the Dolphins can even the season series in Week 18), fall off, even if that brings the Jaguars a little closer. Root for: Jaguars.
Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - An NFC team against an AFC team typically lends itself to an automatic choice to select the NFC team as the desired winner. The Ravens are almost a lock to make the playoffs this year, with a win pushing them to the brink of claiming a playoff spot, while a loss still leaves them in a comfortable position. This game really does not impact Miami’s playoff chances a lot, but it could play a factor in Miami’s playoff seeding. For that reason, the NFC team winning is a good thing. Root for: Falcons.
Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - Two NFC teams playing in a game that barely moves the needle when it comes to Miami’s playoff chances - a strength of victory/schedule tiebreak could come into play but that is not likely. The rooting guide is going to choose the way that helps that tiebreak scenario, in part because seeing former Dolphins interim head coach and currently Lions head coach Dan Campbell find success is good. Root for: Lions.
Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - A Bills win clinches the AFC East, closing that route to the playoffs for the Dolphins. Of course, the Bills basically have it locked up already, given they are three games up with three games to play and they evened the season series with a win over Miami last week, but they do not yet. This is an AFC versus NFC game, and it is almost a default to always root against the other AFC East teams. Plus, seeing the Bills not have homefield advantage and a bye in the AFC playoffs is a good reason to go for Chicago. Root for: Bears.
New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - There is little impact on the Dolphins playoff chances within this game, so we will simply stick to picking the NFC team over the AFC team, a result that would eliminate the Browns from postseason contention this year. Root for: Saints.
Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - We have to break the NFC versus AFC rule here. The Chiefs have won the AFC West and they do not really factor into Miami’s path to the playoffs. Plus, they are the other half of the keep the Bills from the number one seed plan. Root for: Chiefs.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - Two NFC teams, with minimal impact on Miami’s playoff chances. There is a little bit of an argument to the strength of schedule tiebreak argument with a Vikings win, but really you can flip a coin here. Root for: Pick ‘em.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - The Bengals winning here helps Miami because it pushes the Bengals closer to claiming the AFC North title and it pushes the Patriots below .500 for the season. With the rooting guide already taking the Ravens to lose, a Bengals win makes sense. Root for: Bengals.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET - The Texans are eliminated from playoff contention and are really only looking toward the first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Titans are suddenly fighting for their playoff lives, a year after being the top seed in the AFC, and the Jaguars work to challenge them for the AFC South title. There really is not a lot of impact for the Dolphins here, because either the Titans or the Jaguars will make the playoffs as the division winner, while the other will likely miss the postseason as they fall out of wild-card contention. The Titans’ road to the division title may have gotten steeper with the injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This game is basically a coin toss. Root for: Pick ‘em.
Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers, Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET - Another NFC versus NFC matchup that has minimal impact on the Dolphins. Strength of schedule comes into play slightly with the Dolphins having played the 49ers this year. It really is a coin toss, but we will say root for San Francisco simply for the slight nudge the tiebreak scenario could give. Root for: 49ers.
Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET - The Steelers have been eliminated from the playoffs while the Raiders are trying to hold on to slim chances to make the postseason. Seeing Las Vegas fall out of contention, with the possibility that they are eliminated this week, is the better situation for Miami. Root for: Steelers.
Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET - Obviously we are rooting for Miami on Christmas Day. This game helps Miami’s playoff chances, with a Dolphins win, but in the long run, it is Week 17 and Week 18 as Miami faces the Patriots and Jets to end the season, that will determine if the Dolphins make the playoffs. Root for: Dolphins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET - Another NFC versus NFC game with no impact on Miami’s chances. Arizona is already eliminated frohe postseason, while the Buccaneers are somehow leading their division at 6-8. Why not root to see Tom Brady continue to be frustrated? Root for: Cardinals.
Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis Colts, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET - The Chargers are ahead of Miami in the playoff seeding due to the head-to-head loss by the Dolphins two weeks ago. That said, the game has little impact on Miami’s playoff chances, simply because Miami’s path is through knocking out the rest of the AFC East wild-card contenders. Seeding is important, so a Chargers loss is a good thing even if it does not change Miami’s layoff chances by a ton. Root for: Colts.
Perfect Rooting Guide Results
If everything in the routing guide were to happen, the Dolphins would see their playoff chances increase to 92 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
The AFC playoff picture would look like:
1 - Kansas City Chiefs
2 - Buffalo Bills
3 - Cincinnati Bengals
4 - Tennessee Titans/Jacksonville Jaguars
5 - Miami Dolphins
6 - Baltimore Ravens
7 - Los Angeles Chargers
(Titans/Jaguars decided by the pick ‘em choice for the Texans at Titans game.)