There seems to be some confusion among the Miami Dolphins fan base as to what needs to happen for the team to qualify for the postseason during the final two weeks of the season. Here is every scenario that would land Miami a playoff spot.
Win final two games
First off, the Dolphins path to he playoffs is actually very simple — if they can take of their own business that is. A win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 16 and a win over the New York Jets in Week 17 would, at the very least, give the Dolphins the AFC‘s sixth seed.
Even though the Dolphins would be out of the tournament if it started today, they still control their own destiny. That’s because neither the Baltimore Ravens or Cincinnati Bengals can win out given the two teams’ showdown in Week 17. The loser of that game can’t overtake a 10-6 Miami.
Dolphins can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday
For those fans hoping for a stress free Week 17, there’s still a chance that the Dolphins can wrap up a playoff spot this coming Sunday. A win over the Bills would be necessary for that to happen.
AFC East title remains in play
There’s been so much talk about the second wild card spot that many fans apparently don’t realize that the Dolphins can still win the AFC East. For that to happen the Patriots would need to lose to the Ravens on Sunday and the Bills the following week. The latter makes this scenario far-fetched.
Although Buffalo nearly upset New England in Week 1, it is almost unfathomable to think Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would allow a collapse of that magnitude. But if they do, the Dolphins would only need to win their final two games in order to claim the division crown.
Time to venture even further down the path of improbability. If the Dolphins win out and if the Patriots collapse in the final two weeks, Miami actually has the potential to earn a first-round bye.
In addition, the Dolphins would also need the Bengals to lose to the Vikings in Week 16 then beat the Ravens in Week 17 and the Indianapolis Colts to lose to either the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday or the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week.
Dolphins can be eliminated on Sunday
Miami’s ceiling is the No. 2 seed but its floor is elimination on Sunday. With a loss to the Bills, the Dolphins would be a win by the Ravens, Bengals and Oakland Raiders from no longer contending for the postseason.
The San Diego Chargers can help the Dolphins by forcing a three-way tie for the final spot, so if they lose on Sunday to the Raiders that no longer becomes a possibility.
If Dolphins finish 1-1
It doesn’t really matter which game the Dolphins lose and which game they win, but they can still back into the playoffs by winning once and losing once in their final two games. They would need the Bengals to lose out, the Ravens to lose out or the Ravens to lose once coupled with the Chargers winning out to force a three-way tie for that to happen.
If the Dolphins, Chargers and Ravens all finish the season 9-7, Miami is now guaranteed the sixth seed given what would be a superior conference record.
If Dolphins finish 8-8
There was a point in time when the Dolphins had the potential to finish 10-6 and be left out of the playoffs, so it’s a bit strange to think they can still make it in even if they lose to the Bills and the Jets in the final two weeks. If the Dolphins finish 8-8, they would need the Ravens to lose in Week 16 and 17, the Jets to lose the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and the Chargers to lose only once more.
If the Chargers lose both of their remaining games, the Dolphins would be left out unless the Pittsburgh Steelers can win both of their remaining games to overtake the Ravens for second place in the AFC North. That wouldn’t be a pretty playoff berth for the Dolphins.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.