This might be difficult for Dolphins fans to do, but it makes sense to root for the New England Patriots when they face the Tennessee Titans Monday night in Nasvhille.

That's because the Dolphins need a Tennessee loss at some point to totally control their playoff destiny, and Monday night's game figures to be the Titans' toughest remaining test.

Tennessee closes the season with two road games, but the opponents are non-playoff teams Jacksonville and Houston.

The Dolphins currently are tied with Oakland and Indianapolis for best record in the AFC at 9-5, and either New England or Tennessee will join that group after tonight.

As it stands right now, though, the Dolphins could win their last two games — at Minnesota and New England — and still wind up with only the No. 3 seed (which means no bye) unless they get some help.

Here's the deal: If the Dolphins, Tennessee and Oakland all finish at 11-5, Oakland would have the No. 1 seed and Tennessee would be No. 2.

That's because even though the Dolphins have beaten Oakland, they haven't played Tennessee and since there's no sweep of all the teams involved, you move to the next tiebreaker, which is conference record.

An 11-5 Miami team would be 8-4 in the conference, but would be eliminated from top seed consideration because both Oakland and Tennessee would be 9-3.

The Raiders then would get that tiebreaker because they beat the Titans this season.

That puts the Titans and Dolphins back in the tiebreaker mode for the No. 2 seed, and Tennessee gets that because of conference record.

Now, if Tennessee loses one of its final three games, the Dolphins will have total control and wrap up the No. 1 seed with victory over the Vikings and Patriots.

When it comes to the AFC East race, it's also pretty simple, if the Dolphins beat Minnesota on Saturday and New England loses Monday night and next Sunday night against the Jets, then the Dolphins win the division.

If the Dolphins lost their next two, New England lost Monday night and against the Jets before beating Miami, and the Jets close out with two victories, there would be a three- or four-way tie at 9-7 and the Jets would win the division.

Under any other scenario, the division winner will be the winner of the Miami-New England game, just as Coach Dave Wannstedt predicted early in the season.

Buffalo, incidentally, cannot win the division, although the Bills are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot.

Complicated? Absolutely.

But as we said at the top, the Dolphins want New England to win on Monday night, plain and simple.

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