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What Are The Dolphins 2017 Playoff Chances Heading Into Week 16?

Dolphins 2017 playoff chances JC Ruiz via Flickr


What Are The Dolphins 2017 Playoff Chances?

Every December for the last few seasons, the Miami Dolphins have played in must-win divisional games. Miami had playoff-clinching scenarios in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Whether it was two games in a row or the last game of the season, Miami lost every single one. The Bills and Jets have spoiled Miami’s playoff chances almost every season, except 2016. A win last week in Buffalo would have put Miami right outside the final wild card in the AFC. Win out, and they probably would have been in, given they own a few tiebreakers in the AFC. However, history repeated itself, and the Buffalo Bills made it almost impossible for Miami to make the playoffs this season. What are the Dolphins 2017 playoff chances heading into Week 16? Miami can wiggle in but will need help from some familiar faces.

First Things First

Before Miami can start thinking about making the playoffs, something needs to change. The intensity and passion the Dolphins showed against the Patriots on Monday Night Football was a glimpse of what this team can be. Then, like clockwork, Jay Cutler and company follow-up a great win with a horrible loss.

Outside of the last few minutes of the game, the Dolphins played with zero urgency in Buffalo. The 24-16 score made it seem close, but anyone who watched the game knew it really wasn’t. Recovering a late onside kick gave hope to another fourth-quarter comeback. That was until Jay Cutler threw an absolutely terrible game-ending interception. Cutler tossed three interceptions Sunday — all of which were utterly careless throws. The only time this team plays with real passion is when they are fighting back from a deficit. Not necessarily the best problem to have when you field one of the worst offenses in the NFL. What are the Dolphins 2017 playoff chances if they cannot motivate themselves?

On the stat sheet, Miami looks relatively equal to teams in terms of yards, plays run, and balance on offense. Even in some blowouts, the Dolphins are putting up just as many yards as their opponent. However, it’s the little things that matter in football, especially in the NFL.

When you turn on the film, the questions answer themselves. Players lining up out of position, not communicating on motions or when the offense shifts. A LOT of arm tackles, especially late in games, and not having a bye week this season can only be used as an excuse so many times. It’s not difficult to notice the difference between lack of effort and lack of energy. Worst of all, the Miami Dolphins are quite terrible in the red zone defensively, when it counts the most.

What Are The Scenarios?

Despite sitting at 6-8 and currently a couple of teams owning tiebreakers over them, somehow the Dolphins can still make the playoffs. Miami must win out and hope a handful of games go their way. So do a few other AFC teams. The Dolphins 2017 playoff chances can stay alive if each of the following happens.

The Dolphins defeat both the Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) on the road this week and the Bills (8-6) again at home in Week 17. I don’t think Miami can win both these games personally, but they have done crazier things.

The Tennessee Titans (8-6) lose out to two possible Super Bowl contenders in the Rams and Jaguars, respectively. This scenario is extremely likely to happen given the offensive ineptitude in Tennessee lately.

Both the Raiders (6-8) and Chargers (7-7) must lose one of their final two games. These two face each other in the Week 17 finale, but the Raiders play the Eagles next week. Conversely, L.A. plays the Jets next week, so the most likely scenario is Oakland losing to Philadelphia, then beating the Chargers.

The last prerequisite to Miami making the playoffs is that Tom Brady and the Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills (8-6) this Sunday in Foxborough. Luckily for the Dolphins, the Patriots are still fighting for home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Therefore, they will not be sitting their stars as they have done in previous late December games.

Bottom Line

Waiting around for a bunch of games to go your way isn’t ideal. However, if Miami had won a few games they were supposed to win (Jets, Bucs, Bills), they would be sitting pretty comfortable in a wild card spot with multiple AFC tiebreakers. All of the above scenarios are entirely possible. The Titans will probably lose out, while the Bills will almost definitely lose to the Patriots this Sunday. The tricky one is the Raiders and Chargers each losing a game since they play each other.

I believe the biggest contingency of all is the one most fans don’t think of.

Unfortunately, people start to focus on what other teams need to do in order for their team to make the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins still have to win football games. Traveling to Kansas City and expecting a win against Andy Reid is foolish — no matter how bad his team is playing right now. Coming back home to play Buffalo is a very winnable game, but it’s not always that simple for the Dolphins.

What are the Dolphins 2017 playoff chances? It really depends on how bad they want it. If this team digs deep and finds that fire inside themselves, they are one of the hardest teams to play in the NFL.