It's Not Over Yet

With Denver suffering an upset loss at home to Oakland, the Dolphins missed a great opportunity to put themselves in prime position to return to the playoffs. Instead, they find themselves in the middle of a massive jam of teams trying to snag one of the two wild-card berths. And, yes, there still is hope for the postseason.

The NFL released on Monday something it called "playoff scenarios," but it didn't address what the six teams at 7-7 in the AFC need to have happen.

Here's what's important to remember if we wind up if multiple teams from the same division tied for that last playoff spot: The first step if two or more teams from the same division are involved in a conference tiebreaker is to apply the division tiebreaker. Translation: The Dolphins don't have to worry about the Jets in any tiebreaker scenario because they swept them.

Moving along, head-to-head results in a three-way tie or more only apply if one team has swept all the others with which it is tied. Therefore, the Dolphins' victory at Jacksonville means nothing if there's another team involved that either Miami or the Jaguars haven't played. Conversely, that would apply to the loss at Tennessee.

Finally, after head-to-head tiebreakers, the next step in conference records.

The Dolphins currently stand at 5-5, meaning they would be 7-5 if they can beat Houston and Pittsburgh to finish at 9-7 (we don't even want to contemplate the possibility of Miami making te playoffs at 8-8 because it's absurdly unlikely and then involves even more possibilities).

Denver and Baltimore, which currently hold the fifth and sixth playoff spots, are conference records of 6-5 and 6-4, respectively. Denver is at Philadelphia this Sunday, while Baltimore is at Pittsburgh in two games the road team easily could lose.

So let's say the Broncos and Ravens both lose and then both win their season finale against Kansas City and Oakland, respectively.

That puts both of them at 9-7 and 7-5 in the conference. Among the six teams at 7-7, we can eliminate Houston and Pittsburgh because they're the Dolphins' next two opponents and we're studying scenarios when Miami finishes 9-7.

That leaves Jacksonville, the Jets and Tennessee. Jacksonville has the best conference record of the three at 6-4, but the Jaguars play at New England this week. We've already discussed the Jets not being a problem, and Tennessee is only 4-7 in the conference and also has a tough game at home against San Diego this Friday.

So playing this scenario further along, let's say Denver, Baltimore and the Dolphins all end up tied for the last two playoff spots at 9-7.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head but doesn't apply because Miami didn't face either team.

So next is conference record and we have all three at 7-5. That moves up to record in common games with a minimum of four. Guess what? All three teams would be 2-2 in those.

Next is strength of victory, where you would add up the combined records of all the teams beaten. As it stands right now, Denver has the clear advantage there, with the combined records of the teams it has beaten at 56-55, compared to 43-55 for the Dolphins and 42-70 for the Ravens.

So it would appear Denver would get the No. 5 seed in the event of a three-way tie between the Dolphins, Broncos and Ravens.

Then we would start from the top to see who would get the No. 6 seed between the Dolphins and Ravens. Again, under the assumption they tie at 9-7 WITH the Ravens losing this Sunday at Pittsburgh, the teams would be tied in conference games and common games, so we're back to strength of victory.

That means that the Dolphins want to root for all the teams they've beaten so that it strengthens the strength of victory.

Then again, they don't want Jacksonville to go 9-7 because of the Jaguars' conference record.

So, yes, it is very complicated, but suffice to say, the Dolphins are not done yet.

What they have to do is take care of their own business first and then worry about all the playoff permutations. It's actually pretty amazing to think about after the disappointment of the Tennessee game.


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