Here we are once again heading into the final month and one game of football and we are talking about the chances of the Miami Dolphins making the playoffs instead of wondering who they might play. It’s safe to say that New England has firm grip on yet another AFC East division title. It would take a complete meltdown from a team that doesn’t melt down to lose that spot. While New England will entertain visions of home field advantage in their heads and Miami fans will vomit, the Dolphins are not out of hopes yet despite the setback on Sunday.
Six teams are tied with Miami for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. Each of those teams hold a 5-6 record and it’s likely that the winner of that spot will finish 9-7. That will allow each team one more loss. Miami can’t afford that loss. As we look at the possibilities we have to consider more than simple head to head match-ups as they likely will not play a big role in the outcome. The tie breaking formula uses head to head only if two teams are tied for one spot and have played each other.
The next tie breaker is head to head only if three teams tied and each have played each other with one team losing to both of the others. The formula then moves to conference record and that’s where Miami finds themselves in an interesting spot. Miami has five remaining AFC conference games and only one of those games, Pittsburgh is outside of the division. Division record for Miami will only come into play if they finish tied with the New York Jets.
Currently Baltimore has the best conference record at 5-4. Tennessee and Pittsburgh are both 4-4 with Miami 4-3 and San Diego 3-4. The Jets have only won two conference games. It makes this weeks game that much more important for the Jets and Miami. This weekend will shake things up a bit in this race as Baltimore and Pittsburgh will battle head to head along with Miami and New York. A win by Baltimore could put them in the drivers seat but if you’re a fan of the Dolphins, rooting for the Steelers on Thursday night may not be a bad thing.
A loss by Baltimore gives them another conference loss and more importantly could break a tie between Pittsburgh, Miami, and Baltimore should they all finish tied for the 6th seed. If of course Miami beats Pittsburgh a week later.
It’s still confusing and there is no question that Miami must finish strong and win out. A 10-6 record is hard to imagine but not out of the question. The Dolphins need help. Here is the remaining schedules for each of the 6th seed contenders.
Miami – @ New York, @ Pittsburgh, home for New England, @ Buffalo, and home for the Jets.
Tennessee who currently holds the 6th seed – @ Indianapolis, @ Denver, home for the Cardinals, @ Jacksonville, home for the Texans.
Pittsburgh holds the 7th spot – @ Baltimore, home for the Dolphins, home for Cincinnati, @ Green Bay, home for Cleveland
Baltimore holds the 8th spot – home for Pittsburgh, home for Minnesota, @ Detroit, home for New England, @ Cincinnati.
San Diego holds the 9th spot – home for Cincinnati and then the Giants, @ Denver, home for Oakland and K.C.
New York Jets holds the 10th spot – home for the Dolphins, home for Oakland, @ Carolina, home for Cleveland, @ Miami
Of the teams that are vying for that final spot Miami has more control over the outcome facing two of those teams a total of three times. Baltimore and Pittsburgh will face each other once and then no other team in this race face another team in this group except Miami and New York. It takes the control out of Miami’s hands as they now have to hope that someone beats Baltimore, Tennessee, and San Diego. They control their fate against the Jets and Steelers.
Of the six teams, Miami will face one lock for the playoffs in New England. Three of their other four remaining games will be against teams competing for that final spot. Tennessee will play three of their remaining five games against teams likely headed to the playoffs. Pittsburgh has one game slated with a current playoff seed while Baltimore will play two games against a playoff seeded team. San Diego however will play three of their five remaining games against playoff teams and two of those are against teams vying for bye weeks.
The final month should be interesting but it’s very safe to say with as close as this race is, it’s just as easy to drop out of it with one loss. Something Miami can not afford.
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