The Dolphins’ win Sunday evening over the Oakland Raiders was as encouraging as they come, as the Dolphins pretty handedly dominated on both sides of the ball. Still though, even a win of that caliber is somewhat watered down by the fact that the Dolphins still find themselves basically three games out of a playoff spot.
As a team, the Dolphins have enough on their plate to worry about considering they realistically must win-out in order to make all those playoff scenarios even possible, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep a close eye on those teams that stand in the way of a Miami playoff run.
In case you’re late to the party, it’s now going to take either the Jets, Patriots, Steelers, or Ravens to have a fairly significant late season collapse by finishing no better than 2-3 for the Dolphins to sneak into the playoffs, provided that they indeed do win the remainder of their games and get a little luck with the various tie-breaker procedures.
So let’s take a look at each of those four teams’ final five games.
Week 13: @ Patriots
Week 14: vs. Dolphins
Week 15: @ Steelers
Week 16: @ Bears
Week 17: vs. Bills
Week 13: vs. Jets
Week 14: @ Bears
Week 15: vs. Packers
Week 16: @ Bills
Week 17: vs. Dolphins
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Week 13: @ Ravens
Week 14: vs. Bengals
Week 15: vs. Jets
Week 16: vs. Carolina
Week 17: @ Browns
Week 13: vs. Steelers
Week 14: @ Texans
Week 15: vs. Saints
Week 16: @ Browns
Week 17: vs. Bengals
As you can see, this week will likely narrow the Dolphins’ chase down to two teams, as the losers from the Jets at Patriots and Steelers at Ravens contest will only be two games ahead in the wildcard race if the Dolphins can beat a tough Browns team at home in the not so friendly combines that has become Sun Life Stadium.
And judging by the schedule in the last four weeks, the Jets and Ravens clearly appear most vulnerable to a late season meltdown. In the Ravens case, I say that only because their tough three game stretch they are currently getting ready to face. They will arguably be the favorite in all three games considering two come at home and the other is against an inconsistent Texans team, but all three are losable. While Dolphin fans should root against the Ravens, they shouldn’t necessarily get their hopes up.
Let’s turn our attention to the Jets, though, who, in my opinion, are the most likely to suffer a December collapse. I say that not only because that is historically typical of the Jets as a franchise (look no further than 2008) and not only because they’ve been barely edging out non-playoff caliber teams in recent weeks, but because they’re about to hit a brutal four game stretch.
The Jets face away games in Foxboro, Pittsburgh, and Chicago, three of the league’s top teams right now, and their lone home game in that stretch comes against our very own 5-1 on the road Miami Dolphins. If the Dolphins lose in the Meadowlands none of these other games will even matter, so assuming the Dolphins even up their season series with the Jets, Rex Ryan’s squad needs to lose to the Patriots and the Steelers.
If the Jets finish out 11-5 with loses to the Pats, Dolphins, and Steelers, the Dolphins would likely win the tie-breaker if they can also finish the year 11-5 because they currently hold the edge in strength of victory. That’s the simple way.
If the Jets lose to the Bears as well, the Dolphins could then sneak in with a 10-6 record only if their last loss comes at the hands of the Lions because they would lose out on the conference record tie-breaker if they dropped another game versus an AFC team. Yes, all of those scenarios are quite the mess, but they are unfortunately the most realistic hope we have left for a Dolphins’ playoff berth. If rooting against the Jets wasn’t easy enough?