Dolphins ... Playoffs? Playoffs?

Recently, Karlos Dansby reminded his teammates that they still can finish the season at  9-7 … and … that his 2008 Arizona Cardinals reached the Super Bowl with that  record.

Really?  Did you mean to say … Miami Dolphins … PlayoffsAre you really talking playoffs?

Is it possible for the Miami Dolphins to reach the playoffs this season?  Achieving that feat, starting the season 0-7 and making the playoffs, seems really out there.  In fact, such talk seems almost certifiable.

Oh well, what the heck?  Let’s take a look at whether something seemingly so out there is actually possible.  In my opinion, in order for this possibility to happen, the Dolphins need to win all of their remaining games.  So, I will start with this assumption.

The Dolphins have seven games left to play.  Four of the seven are against AFC East Division foes — two on the road against Buffalo and New England along with two at home against Buffalo and the Jets.  The current division records are as follows:  Patriots are 3-1, Jets are 2-2, Bills are 1-1, and Dolphins are 0-2.  If the Dolphins win out, they will at least tie for the Division Championship.  WOW!  This would mean they would hold the tie-breaker for any wild-card playoff spot against the Jets and Bills.  The tie-breaking criteria for playoff spots can be found here.

Assuming the Patriots win the AFC East, here is the remaining schedules for the Dolphins, Jets and Bills.  I have highlighted in red my prediction for losses (including Jets loss at the Broncos) .

Dolphins:  Bills, @ Cowboys, Raiders, Eagles, @ Bills, @ Patriots, Jets — Final Record Overall 9-7, Division 4-2, Conference 6-6.

Jets:  @ Broncos, Bills, @ Redskins, Chiefs, @ Eagles, Giants, @ Dolphins – Final Record Overall 9-7, Division 3-3, Conference 6-6.

Bills:  @ Dolphins, @ Jets, Titans, @ Chargers, Dolphins, Broncos, @ Patriots – Final Record Overall 7-9, Division 1-5, Conference 5-7.

The Dolphins would edge out the Jets for any wild-card playoff spot because they would be tied in head-to-head matches (1-1), but the Dolphins would have the better Division record, which is the second NFL tie-breaking criteria.

I do not believe that a wild-card team will come out of the AFC West.  The Raiders are currently leading the pack at 5-4.  The Broncos are at 5-5 with the Chargers and Chiefs 4-5.  Each team has two games remaining against division foes and they seem to be too busy beating up on each other for a team to end up with a second place 9-7 record — the Dolphins would have the tie-breaking advantage of head-to-head matchup against the Raiders and Chiefs, but not against the Broncos and Chargers.  The only real concern would be a 9-7 Chargers.  But, the Chargers have a tough schedule ahead with games at the Bears (6-3), at the Lions (6-3), and home against the Ravens (6-3), plus at the Raiders in the final game of the season.  The Broncos will likely not win four out of its remaining six games that include at home against the Patriots and Bears and away against the Chargers and Bills.

The rivals for the two wild-card spots will likely come out of the AFC North (Steelers, Ravens, Bengals) and/or the AFC South (Texans, Titans).  Here are the remaining schedules for these teams.  I have highlighted in red my prediction for losses.  I have included each teams’s current record.

Steelers (7-3):  @ Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, @ 49ers, Rams, @ Browns — Final Record Overall 12-4, Conference 9-3.

Ravens (6-3):  Bengals, 49ers, @ Browns, Colts, @ Chargers, Browns, @ Bengals — Final Record Overall 11-5, Conference 9-3.

Bengals (6-3):  @ Ravens, Browns, @ Steelers, Texans, @ Rams, Cardinals, Ravens – Final Record Overall 9-7, Conference 6-6.

- – -

Texans (7-3):  @ Jaguars, Falcons, @ Bengals, Panthers, @ Colts, Titans — Final Record Overall 12-4, Conference 10-2.

Titans (5-4):  @ Falcons, Bucs, @ Bills, Saints, @ Colts, Jaguars, @ Texans – Final Record Overall 8-8, Conference 6-6.

Looking at the remaining schedules, the Steelers and the Texans, who are already one up in the win column on the rest of the field, have the easiest paths to the playoffs.  I believe they will win their respective Divisions and will likely get byes in the first round of the playoffs over the Pats.  Yes, I am fully aware that the Texans have lost their QB.  But, they are basically a running team.  Matt Leinart is fully qualified to hand the ball off to Foster and Tate plus make a few completions here and there to keep defenses on their toes.

The Ravens and Bengals will likely get the two wild-card spots.  If the Dolphins won all of its remaining games, they would lose the final wild-card spot to the Bengals based on the third tie-breaking criteria — winning percentage against common opponents.  The Dolphins-Bengals common opponents are the Browns, Broncos, Bills, and Texans.  The Dolphins loss to the Browns would be the real clincher.  The Dolphins would have to hope that the Browns would beat the Bengals in Cincinnati.

So, if the Dolphins made an incredible run to the playoffs by winning nine games in a row, they would regret losing that game in Cleveland in Week 2 when they had the game in hand and let Colt McCoy take his team to victory on a TD drive with 0:43 left.  Chad Henne failed to get the Dolphins in FG position with the remaining time.

The Dolphins would also regret not taking Andy Dalton in the 2011 NFL Draft.

What do you think about the analysis?  Were you wondering if the Phins could make the Playoffs?


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