Despite Crushing Loss, Playoffs Still in Reach for Dolphins

Miami needs to win next week and get help from other teams, but the playoffs are still in reach

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    There was very little to like about their shutout loss at the hands of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but the Miami Dolphins still find themselves with a chance to make the playoffs as the AFC's sixth seed.

    Thanks to the New England Patriots' win over Baltimore and the San Diego Chargers' win against Oakland on Sunday, Miami was not eliminated from playoff contention. Both teams are 8-7 and in a three-way tie for sixth place in the AFC East with San Diego.

    What does this mean for Miami's playoff chances? If the Dolphins beat the New York Jets at home on Sunday and Baltimore loses to Cincinnati, Miami would be a playoff team.

    And even if Baltimore wins, the Dolphins could still sneak in if San Diego also wins on Sunday, thanks to the NFL's tiebreaker rules (if both Miami and San Diego finish 9-7, Miami would win the tiebreaker thanks to its win against San Diego in Week 11).

    Those are the only two scenarios in which Miami makes the playoffs, though.

    If only Miami and Baltimore finish 9-7, Baltimore would win a tiebreaker thanks to its head-to-head win over Miami in Week 5. But if San Diego also finishes 9-7, that head-to-head win would be meaningless.

    Because Baltimore and San Diego did not play each other this season, head-to-head results would not factor in a three-way tie with the Dolphins.

    Instead, the result would depend on each team's winning percentage in conference games. Assuming all three teams win on Sunday, Miami would finish with a 8-4 record against AFC teams, while Baltimore would be 7-5 and San Diego would be 6-6.

    But what if Miami, Baltimore, and San Diego all lose on Sunday? All three would be tied with the Jets at 8-8, and Miami would be eliminated from playoff contention due to New York's better record against AFC East opponents (3-3 compared to 2-4).

    With Miami out of the picture, Baltimore would win the sixth playoff spot due to its better conference record. NFL rules apply divisional tiebreakers before conference tiebreakers in cases with three or more teams having the same record with two in the same division (a complete explanation of these procedures can be found here).

    So Dolphins fans will be rooting for Cincinnati to beat Baltimore and San Diego to beat the Kansas City Chiefs next week. But if Miami can't beat the Jets, they will be out of the playoffs for the fifth straight week regardless of any other results next week.