The 2023 NFL schedule has reached 15, bringing with it a tripleheader of Saturday games. Following the Thursday night win by the Las Vegas Raiders over the Los Angeles Chargers, we come into today’s game with playoff seeding and divisional titles starting to come into play. How do this weekend’s games impact the Miami Dolphins’ hopes for an AFC East title and their pursuit of the AFC’s top seed?
The Dolphins enter the weekend in the second-seed in the AFC playoff picture, trailing the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens by a game. Miami, holding the top spot in the AFC East, is a game ahead of the AFC West leaders, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the AFC South leaders, the Jacksonville Jaguars. All four teams are battling to claim the top position and the home-field advantage and first-round by which it brings.
The three wild card positions in the AFC are held by the Cleveland Browns (8-5), the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), and the Indianapolis Colts (7-6). No team in the conference has clinched a playoff spot, but the New England Patriots (3-10) have been eliminated from contention.
The NFC side of the bracket saw the San Francisco 49ers slide into the top spot as the Philadelphia Eagles, holders of the best record in the league for much of the season, have dropped from leading the conference and NFC East standings to a wild card spot and out of the division lead. The Dallas Cowboys, after beating the Eagles last week, jumped from the fifth seed to the second position, tied with the 49ers at 10-3 for the year. The Detroit Lions (9-4) as the NFC North leaders are in the third spot while the NFC South leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) are in the fourth-seed position.
The Eagles (10-3), Minnesota Vikings (7-6), and Green Bay Packers (6-7) are in the three wild card positions. The 49ers have clinched their spot in the postseason tournament while the Carolina Panthers (1-12) have been eliminated from contention.
Taking a look at the Week 14 schedule, we provide Dolphins fans with the rooting guide for every game that impacts the team’s playoff chances.
AFC East standings (through Week 15):
Week 15 schedule:
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins - 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots - 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Dallas Cowboys at Buffalo Bills - 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
AFC playoff picture (through Week 15 Thursday Night Football):
New England Patriots (3-10)
*Week 15 Thursday Night Football.
- Chiefs over Jaguars based on head-to-head results
- Steelers over Bengals based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Colts over Texans based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Steelers over Bills and Broncos based on AFC winning percentage; Steelers over Colts based on common game winning percentage
- Colts over Texans based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Colts over Bills, Bengals, and Broncos based on AFC winning percentage
- Texans over Bills, Bengals, and Broncos based on AFC winning percentage
- Broncos over Bills based on head-to-head results; Broncos over Bengals based on AFC winning percentage
- Bengals over Bills based on head-to-head results
- Jets over Titans based on strength of victor
NFC Playoff Picture (through Week 14)
1 - San Francisco 49ers (10-3, NFC West leader) - Clinched playoff berth
2 - Dallas Cowboys (10-3, NFC East leader)
3 - Detroit Lions (9-4, NFC North leader)
4 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7, NFC South leader)
Carolina Panthers (1-12)
- Cowboys over Eagles based on NFC East win percentage (divisional tiebreak); 49ers over Cowboys based on head-to-head results
- Cowboys over Eagles based on NFC East win percentage
- Buccaneers over Falcons based on common opponent winning percentage; Buccaneers over Saints based on head-to-head results
- Rams over Seahawks based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak);Falcons over Saints based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Packers over Rams based on head-to-head results and Packers over Falcons based on NFC winning percentage
- Rams over Seahawks based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Falcons over Saints based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Rams over Falcons based on NFC winning percentage
- Falcons over Saints based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Seahawks over Falcons based on NFC winning percentage
- Falcons over Saints based on head-to-head results
Miami Dolphins Week 14 rooting guide:
Vikings at Bengals, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
This game only matters if everything falls apart for the Dolphins over the final four weeks of the season and they are battling for a wild card position. With that in mind and with this being an NFC team at an AFC team, this choice is straightforward. Root for: Vikings.
Steelers at Colts, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday
This game is a toss up. The Steelers are in the sixth-seed position while the Colts are in the seventh-seed. The winner will still be in a wild card position while the loser will drop deep into the quagmire that is the playoff bubble watch. After this week, the Steelers host the Bengals, are at the Seahawks, then end the season at the Ravens. The Colts are at the Falcons, then home against the Raiders and the Texans. The Steelers’ schedule seems harder down the stretch, so we will say seeing them win today is less of an issue for Miami. Root for: Steelers.
Broncos at Lions, 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday
Denver is flirting with the playoff bubble, but they are a long shot to make it into the postseason, especially if the Dolphins fall off and have to rely on a wild card position. An AFC versus NFC team, with the AFC team being a playoff factor? Easy choice. Root for: Lions.
Bears at Browns, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Another NFC at AFC game. The Browns are 8-5 and in a wild card position, two games behind the Ravens for the NFC North title. While seeing the Ravens not win the division would be fun from a Dolphins fan point of view, adding the safety net of the wild card seeding is more important. Root for: Bears.
Texans at Titans, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
The Titans shocked the Dolphins last week, coming away with the win and adding some question marks to Miami’s run toward the postseason. The least they can do is pull off the win over the Texans here, beating a team that is the first team on the wrong side of the playoff bubble. Root for: Titans.
Chiefs at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
This starts a string of key games for Miami to end the rooting guide. The Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs and really can only play spoiler. If they can spoil the Chiefs’ hopes for climbing back into the battle for the AFC’s top playoff spot, they will be doing great things for Miami. Root for: Patriots.
Cowboys at Bills, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
NFC versus AFC makes this easy. Seeing the Bills lose makes it even easier. Root for: Dallas.
Ravens at Jaguars, 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday
This game feels like it should be a tough decision between two AFC division leaders who are battling for the top seed. But, the Ravens are a game ahead of Miami, the Jaguars are a game behind the Dolphins. Miami could use a loss from the Ravens. Root for: Jaguars.
Games with no impact on Dolphins:
Falcons at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Buccaneers at Packers, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Giants at Saints, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
49ers at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday
Commanders at Rams, 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday
Eagles at Seahawks, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday
If the week played out like this, the Dolphins would be back in the AFC’s top position with a 10-4 record. The Ravens would slide back to the second position, losing the spot to Miami based on the AFC winning percentage tiebreak. The Jaguars would move into the third seed, a game behind Miami and Baltimore, while the Chiefs would be another game back in the fourth position.
The wild card teams in the AFC would be the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns at 8-6 and the Indianapolis Colts at 7-7.