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NFL playoff picture Week 18: Miami Dolphins fan rooting guide as regular season ends

The NFL regular season comes to a close this weekend. The Miami Dolphins have claimed their playoff berth, but where will they finish?

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins head into Week 18 of the 2023 NFL season locked into the playoffs, but with a lot of questions still to be answered. Can they claim their first AFC East division title since 2008? Can they guarantee themselves home playoff games by clinching the second seed in the AFC playoff picture? Will they have to head out on the road as a wild card?

Week 18 includes two Saturday games, with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens opening the week, then the Houston Texans at the Indianapolis Colts taking the Saturday night primetime slot. Sunday will have a full slate of games, with both CBS and FOX broadcasting doubleheaders. The weekend, and season, ends with the Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins AFC East title game on Sunday Night Football.

With a win, Miami has their division title and the second seed. With a loss, they fall to the sixth seed as a wild card team, handing the division and second position to the Bills. If the Bills lose, they could find themselves in the sixth seed, in the seven seed, or even out of the playoffs altogether.

The Dolphins fan rooting guide for this weekend is pretty simple when it comes to Miami’s playoff chances. The Dolphins need to win to claim the AFC East and the second seed. That is it. No help needed. However, we are going to include in the guide the possibility of the Bills missing out on the playoffs because, well, it would be funny.

Note: The elimination scenarios are not included this week because they are just the opposite of the clinching scenarios. As one team clinches, another will see all of their scenarios end, essentially giving us the elimination scenarios as well.


AFC East standings (through Week 17):

Miami Dolphins (11-5)
Buffalo Bills (10-6) - 1 GB
New York Jets (6-10) - Eliminated
New England Patriots (4-12) - Eliminated

Week 17 schedule:
Jets at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Bills at Dolphins, 8:15 p.m. ET Sunday


AFC playoff picture (through Week 17):

1 - Baltimore Ravens (13-3, AFC North leader)xyz
2 - Miami Dolphins (11-5, AFC East leader)x
3 - Kansas City Chiefs (10-6, AFC West leader)y
4 - Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7, AFC South leader)

5 - Cleveland Browns (11-5, Wild Card 1 position)x
6 - Buffalo Bills (10-6, Wild Card 2 position)
7 - Indianapolis Colts (9-7, Wild Card 3 position)

Houston Texans (9-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)

Eliminated:
Denver Broncos (8-8)
Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
Las Vegas Raiders (7-9)
New York Jets (6-10)
Tennessee Titans (5-11)
Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
New England Patriots (4-12)

x Playoff berth clinched
y Division title clinched
z Homefield advantage/first-round bye clinched

Tiebreaks:

  • Jaguars over Colts and Texans based on head-to-head results
  • Colts over Texans based on head-to-head results (divisional tiebreak); Colts over Steelers based on head-to-head results.
  • Texans over Steelers based on head-to-head results
  • Broncos over Bengals based on AFC winning percentage
  • Titans over Chargers based on head-to-head results

AFC Clinching Scenarios Week 17:

Bills clinch AFC East title with:

  • Bills win

Bills clinch wild card berth with:

  • Bills tie OR
  • Steelers loss/tie OR
  • Jaguars loss/tie OR
  • Texans-Colts tie

Dolphins clinch AFC title with:

  • Dolphins win

Steelers clinch wild card berth with:

  • Steelers win and Bills loss OR
  • Steelers win and Jaguars loss/tie OR
  • Steelers win and Texans-Colts tie OR
  • Steelers tie and Jaguars loss and Texans-Colts do not tie OR
  • Jagaurs loss and Broncos win and Texans-Colts do not tie

Colts clinch AFC South title with:

  • Colts win and Jaguars loss/tie OR
  • Colts tie and Jaguars loss

Colts clinch wild card berth with:

  • Colts win OR
  • Colts tie and Steelers loss/tie

Jaguars clinch AFC South with:

  • Jaguars win OR
  • Jaguars tie and Texans-Colts tie

Jaguars clinch wild card berth with:

  • Jaguars tie and Steelers loss/tie
  • Steelers loss and Broncos loss/tie and Texans-Colts do not tie

Texans clinch AFC South title with:

  • Texans win and Jaguars loss/tie

Texans clinch wild card berth with:

  • Texans win OR
  • Texans tie and Jaguars loss and Steelers loss/tie

NFC Playoff Picture (through Week 17)

1 - San Francisco 49ers (12-4, NFC West leader)xyz
2 - Dallas Cowboys (11-5, NFC East leader)x
3 - Detroit Lions (11-5, NFC North leader)y
4 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8, NFC South leader)

5 - Philadelphia Eagles (11-5, Wild Card 1 position)x
6 - Los Angeles Rams (9-7, Wild Card 2 position)x
7 - Green Bay Packers (8-8, Wild Card 3 position)

Seattle Seahawks (8-8)
New Orleans Saints (8-8)
Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Atlanta Falcons (7-9)*

Eliminated:
Chicago Bears (7-9)*
New York Giants (5-11)
Washington Commanders (4-12)
Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
Carolina Panthers (2-14)

x Playoff berth clinched
y Division title clinched

*Note: The Bears are ahead of the Falcons in the standings, but the Falcons have not been eliminated from the NFC South division title, keeping them above the “Eliminated” group.

Tiebreaks:

  • Cowboys over Eagles based on NFC winning percentage (divisional tiebreak); Cowboys over Lions based on head-to-head results
  • Buccaneers over Saints based on common games winning percentage
  • Packers over Seahawks based on strength of victory; Packers over Saints based on NFC winning percentage
  • Seahawks over Saints based on NFC winning percentage
  • Vikings over Bears based on common games winning percentage (divisional tiebreak); Vikings over Falcons based on head-to-head results
  • Bears over Falcons based on head-to-head results
  • Commanders over Cardinals based on head-to-head results

NFC Clinching Scenarios Week 17

Cowboys clinch NFC East title with:

  • Cowboys win OR
  • Cowboys tie and Eagles tie OR
  • Eagles loss

Eagles clinch NFC East title with:

  • Eagles win and Cowboys loss/tie OR
  • Eagles tie and Cowboys loss

Packers clinch wild card berth with:

  • Packers win OR
  • Packers tie and Seahawks loss/tie or Saints loss/tie OR
  • Packers tie and Seahawks loss and Buccaneers loss OR
  • Packers tie and Seahawks tie and Buccaneers loss/tie OR
  • Vikings loss/tie and Seahawks loss and Buccaneers loss OR
  • Vikings loss/tie and Seahawks loss and Saints loss

Vikings clinch wild card berth with:

  • Vikings win and Packers loss and Seahawks loss and Buccaneers loss OR
  • Vikings win and Packers loss and Seahawks loss and Saints loss

Buccaneers clinch NFC South title with:

  • Buccaneers win OR
  • Buccaneers tie and Saints loss/tie

Buccaneers clinch wild card berth with:

  • Buccaneers tie and Seahawks loss and Packers loss/tie

Falcons clinch NFC South title with:

  • Falcons win and Buccaneers loss

Saints clinch NFC South title with:

  • Saints and and Buccaneers loss/tie OR
  • Saints tie and Buccaneers loss

Saints clinch wild card berth with:

  • Saints win and Seahawks loss/tie and Packers loss/tie OR
  • Saints tie and Seahawks loss and Packers loss

Seahawks clinch wild card berth with:

  • Seahawks win and Packers loss/tie OR
  • Seahawks tie and Packers loss and Buccaneers loss/tie OR
  • Seahawks tie and Packers loss and Saints loss/tie

Miami Dolphins Week 17 rooting guide:

Steelers at Ravens, 4:30 p.m. Saturday

This is again, just the idea of the Bills being eliminated from the playoffs. It might be petty, but it is a rivalry for a reason, so why not? The first step in keeping the Bills out of the playoffs is the Steelers beating the Ravens. In any week other than Week 18, the Ravens would be heavy favorites in the game, but Baltimore is expected to rest most of their starters having already clinched everything in the AFC. If the Steelers win, they have positioned themselves to claim a wild card spot over the Bills. Root for: Steelers.

Texans at Colts, 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday

For the Bills to be eliminated from the playoffs, one of the Texans or Colts have to claim a wild card spot. Either team positions themselves to do that with a win here. As long as this is not a tie, it works toward making the Sunday night game a win-or-else game for the Bills. Root for: Either team, as long as it is not a tie.

Jaguars at Titans, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

The other half of the Colts or Texans claiming a wild card spot is having the Jaguars win the AFC South. They do that with a win. Root for: Jaguars.

Games with no impact on Dolphins:
Buccaneers at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Browns at Bengals, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Vikings at Lions, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Jets at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m. ET Sunday
Seahawks at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Bears at Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Chiefs at Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Broncos at Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Eagles at Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Rams at 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday
Cowboys at Commanders, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday


A Dolphins win gives them the AFC East and the second seed. If the Steelers win, the Texans-Colts do not tie, and the Jaguars win, that would make the three AFC wild card teams the Cleveland Browns (already clinched and locked into the 5th seed), the winner of the Texans vs. Colts game claiming the sixth seed, and the Steelers taking the seventh spot. The Bills would be 10-7, but on the wrong side of tiebreakers.

That would also mean the Dolphins would host the Steelers in the wild card round of the playoffs.

If the Texans and Colts tie, with the Steelers, Jaguars, and Dolphins winning, Pittsburgh would be the sixth seed and the Bills would slide into the seventh seed. The Dolphins would host the Bills in back-to-back weeks.

A Steelers win, Texans-Colts tie, Jaguars win, and Dolphins win makes Pittsburgh the sixth seed and the Bills the seventh seed. Buffalo heads to Miami for the wild card round and the third matchup of the year for the division rivals.

If the Ravens beat the Steelers, the Texans-Colts do not tie, Jacksonville beats Tennessee, and Miami beats Buffalo, the Texans/Colts would claim the sixth seed and Buffalo the seventh. Again, Miami would host Buffalo next week as well.

A Ravens win, Texans-Colts tie, Jaguars win, and Miami win makes Buffalo the sixth seed and the Colts the seventh. Indianapolis would head to South Florida for the wild card round.

A Dolphins loss locks them into the sixth seed, guaranteeing them a trip to Kansas City to face the Chiefs in the wild card round.