The Miami Dolphins‘ playoff hopes strengthened with last Sunday’s 34-28 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they still don’t control their own destiny. In addition to hoping for a victory over the New England Patriots, let’s take a look at what games Dolphins fans should keep an eye on and who they should be rooting for in Week 15:
The perception that the Dolphins must finish with a better record than the Baltimore Ravens, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami, to make the playoffs is not an accurate one. If the Dolphins and Ravens each lose once more, finishing the year at 9-7, Miami could still qualify for the postseason. If the Chargers win the remainder of their games and the Ravens’ one loss comes in Week 16 or 17, the Dolphins would make the playoffs by finishing the season 2-1 due to a superior conference record. While the Dolphins and Ravens could both easily lose one more game, the Chargers running the table is unlikely. Although San Diego has two winnable games in Week 16 and 17, they enter Thursday night’s matchup in Denver as the heavy underdog.
Root for: San Diego.
Baltimore Ravens (7-6) at Detroit Lions (7-6)
If the Dolphins can find a way to win the rest of their games, their path to the playoffs is simple: all they would need is one loss by the Ravens. Baltimore enters a daunting three-game stretch to close out the year with a tough road contest against the NFC North-leading Lions. Detroit is an inconsistent team, but a very talented one. This should be an entertaining catch for Dolphins fans on Monday night.
Root for: Detroit.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-8)
If the Ravens happen to win the rest of their games, the Dolphins would need the Bengals to lose on Sunday or the following week to make the playoffs by running the table. If the Bengals don’t win the AFC North and finish with the same record as the Dolphins, their Week 9 loss at Sun Life Stadium would come back to haunt them. In said scenario, the Dolphins would obviously own the head-to-head tiebreaker and would claim the sixth seed.
Root for: Pittsburgh
The Chiefs haven’t quite clinched a playoff spot yet. Losing their final three games would leave them vulnerable to be overtaken by the Dolphins if Joe Philbin‘s club can win out. If the Ravens win the rest of their games and the Bengals win in Week 15 and 16, the Dolphins would need either a Chiefs or Patriots’ collapse to get in.
Root for: Oakland.
The Dolphins are likely in need of a win over the Jets in Week 17 to make the playoffs anyway, but the sooner Rex Ryan‘s team has nothing to play for the better.
Root for: Carolina.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.