The Miami Dolphins face the Green Bay Packers later today in a Week 16, Christmas Day showdown. All around the league, teams are beginning to claim their spots in the postseason, including in the AFC East where the Buffalo Bills claimed the division title on Saturday. With the division out of the picture this year, the Dolphins are now looking toward the wild card to make it into the championship tournament.
There are only two positions left in the AFC playoff picture’s wild card spots, following the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens both claiming postseason berths. One of those two will win the AFC North, while the other will settle for a wild card spot. The Dolphins are currently in the seventh position, tied record-wise with the Los Angeles Chargers but falling behind them due to the head-to-head loss Miami sustained in Week 14. After all of the Thursday and Saturday games played over the start of Week 16, the Dolphins have an 83 percent chance to claim a playoff spot, according to Five Thirty Eight’s 2022 NFL Predictions page.
A win over the Packers moves Miami to having a 92 percent chance to make the playoffs. It also sets up Miami to lock themselves into the playoffs in Week 17. A loss, knocking the Dolphins down to a 67 percent chance to make the tournament, however, does not percent the Dolphins from claiming their berth next week.
Week 17 Scenario 1
The Dolphins claim their first postseason berth since 2016 with a win over the Packers today, then follow it up with a win over the New England Patriots in Week 17.
Week 17 Scenario 2
If the Dolphins lose to the Packers today, they still can clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 with a win over the Patriots and a New York Jets loss to the Seattle Seahawks. (Of note, if the Dolphins beat the Packers but lose to the Patriots, and the Jets lose to the Seahawks, Miami has a 95 percent chance of making the postseason, but are not a lock yet.)
Week 18 Scenario 1
If the Dolphins only win one of the next two games, splitting the results of the Packers and Patriots contests, they clinch a payoff berth with a win over the Jets in Week 18.
Week 18 Scenario 2
If the Dolphins only win one game in the next three, they also clinch a playoff spot with a loss by the Jets to the Seahawks in Week 17 and a Patriots loss to the Bills in Week 18.
Week 18 Scenario 2
If Miami loses today, then beats the Patriots in Week 17, but then loses to the Jets in Week 18 (and the Jets beat the Seahawks in Week 17), the Dolphins will need help to make it to the playoffs. In this scenario, Miami has just a 12 percent chance of making it to the postseason as New York will have claimed a spot and the Dolphins will need the Chargers to completely fall apart over the next three weeks. Los Angeles would have to lose their Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts and their Week 18 game against the Denver Broncos. A Week 17 win from the Chargers, with the losses in the other two games, would push the Chargers to an 80 percent chance to make it to the playoffs, while Miami would fall to just 20 percent. Three straight losses by the Chargers would allow Miami to clinch their playoff berth with the win over the Patriots as their only victory over the next three games.
Week 18 Scenario 3
Basically, the same situation as Week 18 Scenario 2, but, while the Chargers losing all three games remains a requirement, the Dolphins lose to the Packers and Patriots, but beat the Jets in Week 18.
Week 18 Scenario 4
The Dolphins lose to the Packers, beat the Patriots, and lose to the Jets. Chargers lose to the Colts, beat the Rams, and lose to the Broncos. The Dolphins and Chargers are now tied at 9-8 with just one spot remaining (again, Jets have claimed a spot with wins in Week 17 and 18). To get out of this, Miami needs to create a three-way tie at 9-8 to eliminate the head-to-head advantage of Los Angeles. To get that three-way tie, Miami needs to see the Steelers win both of their remaining games, beating Baltimore in Week 17 and the Cleveland Browns in Week 18.
There are probably more scenarios, but it becomes a game of trying to see the impact of every game on the schedule to find the right combination. We will have a better idea of what can happen in Weeks 17 and 18 for the Dolphins after today’s game. Hopefully, none of these longer-odd scenarios have to happen and Miami handles business themselves.