The playoff permutations are enough to make your head spin, possibly even explode.
But if you’re a Dolphins fan clinging to hopes of the team’s first playoff berth since 2008, here’s what you should do besides root for the Dolphins:
Root against Baltimore.
Root against Cincinnati.
And if the Dolphins should finish tied with Baltimore, pray that there’s a third team tied with them, and that Miami has the best conference record of the three.
A quick primer on where the Dolphins stand in the playoff race, with four games remaining for each team:
The good news, from a Dolphins perspective, is that the Ravens have a challenging remaining schedule: Minnesota, at Detroit, New England and at Cincinnati. The Dolphins play at Pittsburgh, home against the Patriots, at Buffalo and home against the Jets.
So if the Dolphins go 3-1 in the final month, they would win a two-team tiebreaker with Baltimore if the Ravens finish out 2-2, which is a possibility because Baltimore has three teams with winning records on its schedule. (Miami only has one.)
Head-to-head cannot be used to break a three-way tie for a wild-card berth involving teams in different divisions — unless all three teams played each other. Conference record would then be used as a tiebreaker.
Hypothetically, if San Diego finished tied with the Dolphins and Ravens, then Miami (5-3 in conference) could grab the sixth spot if it finishes with a better conference record than the Chargers (3-6 in conference) and the Ravens (6-4 in conference). That’s because the Ravens and Chargers aren’t playing this season.
Keep in mind the Ravens still have two games left against NFC teams; Miami has none. Any Baltimore loss would help, but losses in its two AFC games (Patriots and Bengals) would be especially helpful to Miami in a three-team tie for the last spot.
The third three-team tiebreaker — if needed — would be record against common opponents, minimum four games.
If Baltimore beats the Bengals in their season finale and if the teams finish with the same record atop the AFC North, the Ravens would win the tiebreaker and claim the division title. That’s because Baltimore already beat Cincinnati, and a Week 17 win would give the Ravens a two-game sweep of the season series.
Under that scenario, the Dolphins would win a two-team tiebreaker against Cincinnati by virtue of their win against the Bengals on Halloween.
Coach Joe Philbin suggested Monday he would make no mention of the playoff picture to his players. But he gladly spoke about other issues that pleased him: