Miami Dolphins’ playoff hopes rely on other teams

The Dolphins will be trying to figure out their playoff future by looking at the out-of-town scoreboards at Sunday’s game.

12/01/2013 12:00 AM

12/01/2013 11:23 PM

In each of MetLife Stadium's four corners stands a 5,200-square foot scoreboard, a massive high-definition video board proving updates from both the game in progress and results from around the league.

Meaning: Even if they tried, Dolphins players couldn't miss the crucial out-of-town scores that might eventually determine their team’s playoff fate.

“At the end of the day, it's still real life,” receiver Mike Wallace said with typical candor. “No matter how much coaches tell you ‘don't pay attention to that type of stuff,’ when you see the scores up there, you definitely want to know who’s winning, who’s not, how things are looking for you.

“It's natural, no matter if they tell you a thousand times not to do it.”

There are two ways to look at the Dolphins' predicament — a 5-6 record, with odds of reaching the postseason currently south of 10 percent, according to the number-crunching website Football Outsiders.

The first: They’ve made their bed after inexcusable losses to Buffalo and Tampa Bay and second-half choke jobs against New England and Carolina.

The second: The playoffs, for all intents and purposes, begin Sunday against the rival Jets.

The Dolphins, a half game in back of the Ravens for the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, don't control their own destiny.

What Rex Ryan said of his Jets (also 5-6) — “To say we are in the race for the division, that’s not accurate; New England is kind of running away with it” — is probably true of the Dolphins as well.

“Those guys would have to fall apart,” tackle Tyson Clabo said of the Patriots. “But stranger things have happened.”

Perhaps, but not many. The Patriots have a 98.8 percent likelihood of winning the AFC East, according to Football Outsiders.

So, short of a miraculous turn of events, it's wild card or bust for the Dolphins. But that's a dicey proposition, too. Not only do they trail the Ravens in the standings, but they also trail in tiebreaker scenarios. Baltimore beat Miami in October.

So even if the Dolphins win out, they almost certainly need at least one more loss by Baltimore, which is off Sunday after surviving the Steelers (5-7) on Thanksgiving night.

But Baltimore is only one road block.

Among the other two 5-6 teams in the AFC, the Titans probably pose the biggest threat. They owned the wild-card tiebreaker when there was a six-way tie entering Week 13. Tennessee plays at division-leading Indianapolis on Sunday, a game played at the same time as the Dolphins’.

The Chargers — host to the Bengals in a late-afternoon game — also are 5-6 but aren't a huge concern because the Dolphins beat them two weeks ago to gain the tiebreaker edge.

As for the 4-7 teams, neither the Browns (home against Jacksonville) nor the Bills (home against Atlanta) could afford a loss the rest of the season.

To be frank, neither could the Dolphins, who have just two wins since the autumnal equinox. Their offense deserves much of the blame for the swoon.

Miami ranks 28th in the NFL in yards (310 per game) and is the only team in football that has yet to score more than 27 points in a game this season.

Luckily for the Dolphins, the Jets can't score either and have been arguably even more inconsistent than them.

New York has beaten Super Bowl contenders New England and New Orleans, but has not won consecutive games all season.

Still, like the Dolphins, the Jets enter December playing meaningful games — realizing the vision of former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who believed parity (or, if you're less kind, mediocrity) is good for the game.

It's certainly good for the 97th edition of the Dolphins-Jets rivalry, which will all but eliminate the loser from postseason consideration.

“We've just got to try to win all five [remaining games],” Wallace said. “That will probably get us in. We don't need to try to win nine and leave room for error. We really don't have any. We just have to go out and put our best foot forward this week. We need them all.”

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