After the Miami Dolphins huge loss on the road against the New England Patriots last Thursday, I entered Sunday with my eyes on some key games, hoping that the Dolphins would get some help in the AFC playoff picture.
After Sunday, the Miami Dolphins got almost all the help they could possibly ask for.
As of Monday morning, the Miami Dolphins sit just one game out of the AFC's 6th and final playoff spot. Oddly enough, that position is filled by the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. For the sake of time and space, let's say that the Dolphins won't catch the AFC's top three teams: the Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. Also, let's assume the Indianapolis Colts emerge as the least bad team in the AFC South.
That leaves two wildcard spots for about six teams right now. Those teams are the Dolphins (3-4), Raiders (4-3), Buffalo Bills (3-4), NY Jets (4-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4) and Houston Texans (3-5).
Because of schedule difficulty, I am going to make the prediction that the Oakland Raiders will not finish in either of the final two playoffs spots. They have remaining games against the Broncos, Packers, Vikings and Steelers. That could very well turn out to be 3 or 4 losses for a young and inexperienced Raiders team.
Similary, the Texans have remaining games against the Patriots, Bengals, Bills, Jets and Colts (on the road). I'm sorry Texans fans, but the playoffs just aren't going to happen for you this year, seeing that you already have 5 losses.
That leaves the Steelers, Dolphins, Bills and Jets left competing for two spots. With Ben Roethlisberger returning to form and getting better each week, I think the Steelers are going to take one of those wildcard spots. They have the easiest remaining schedule of these four teams, with two games against the Browns and one against both the Ravens and Steelers. That is an easy 8 wins for the Steelers, and they would need to likely grab only 1 or 2 more to seal a wildcard spot.
Now, the moment we have all been waiting for. Yes, I am predicting that the final playoff spot will come down to the Bills, Dolphins and Jets.
The best part? All three teams have remaining games against each other and the Patriots.
The Dolphins will play the biggest game of their season next year in Buffalo against the Bills. The Dolphins have lost three out of their past four contests against the Bills, and have failed to post more than 7 points in in Buffalo in their last few games. If the Dolphins can win this game, they would be 4-4 and even the series against the Bills.
Basically, the final wildcard team should be the one with the best record in their final 3 AFC East games. If one of these three teams can find a way to beat the Patriots in their second meeting, that would provide a huge leg up over the other two teams.
I will revisit the Dolphins' playoff chances following Sunday's game against the Bills.
In the meantime, who do you think will emerge as the 5th and 6th playoff teams in the AFC?
Head over to our forums and debate!