In six exhilarating weeks, the Dolphins have gone from having one of the five best chances of procuring the No. 1 overall draft pick to controlling their own playoff destiny.
Though Miami wouldn’t make the playoffs if the season ended today, they have a much easier schedule than the two teams they’re chasing, Kansas City and Denver.
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What’s more, the Chiefs and Broncos play each other twice, including Sunday night in Denver. Those two teams currently own the AFC’s two wild card spots at 7-3, one game ahead of 6-4 Miami, which is seventh in the conference.
The Dolphins have a 45.8 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to www.makenflplayoffs.com. A few points to keep in mind as the Dolphins prepare for a playoff stretch run:
• Of the Dolphins’ final six opponents, only New England – which visits Miami in the Jan. 1 finale – has a winning record. And the Patriots (8-2) might be inclined to rest some starters if they have clinched the AFC East and the conference’s best record by that point.
Miami’s next five games: San Francisco (1-9), at Baltimore (5-5), vs. Arizona (4-5-1), at the Jets (3-7) and at the Bills (5-5).
If teams haven’t played each other, then conference record is the tiebreaker used to break ties between non-division opponents for wild-card berths. Record against common opponents (minimum four) would be used as the next criteria if needed.
• Whereas remaining Dolphins opponents have won only 43.3 percent of their games, the Chiefs’ and Broncos’ remaining opponents have each won 60.6 percent of their games.
After playing at Denver, the Chiefs must play four more games against playoff contenders: at Atlanta, Oakland, Tennessee and Denver, before finishing at San Diego.
The Broncos, after hosting the Chiefs, visit Jacksonville and Tennessee, host New England, go to Kansas City and finish at home against Oakland.
• Among wild card contenders who are trailing the Dolphins in the standings, the Steelers (5-5) and Bills (5-5) have the easiest schedules. Pittsburgh’s remaining opponents have a 40.9 winning percentage and Buffalo’s opponents have a 39.3 winning percentage. The primary reason for that: Both teams have a game remaining against 0-11 Cleveland.
But the Steelers and Bills also play each other, in Pittsburgh. Buffalo must still go to Oakland, and the Steelers’ next four games are at least somewhat difficult: at Indianapolis, the Giants, at Buffalo and at Cincinnati.
Miami owns the tiebreaker with Pittsburgh by virtue of a head-to-head win. The Dolphins own the tiebreaker with Buffalo, but that could change if the Bills beat Miami on Dec. 24 in Buffalo, and if the Bills (1-3 in the AFC East) finish with a better division record than Miami (2-1 in the AFC East).
• Indianapolis (5-5), which trails Houston in the AFC South race, has a more difficult schedule than the Dolphins, with remaining opponents holding a winning percentage of .500. The Colts must still go to Minnesota and to Oakland.
• Tennessee (5-6), which owns a two-team tiebreaker over Miami, has only five games left: at Chicago, Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville and Houston.
Receiver DeVante Parker has caught 13 passes for 182 yards over the past two games, including the game-winning touchdown against the Rams, and coach Adam Gase said this week: ““It’s probably a little tougher for him than what we realize. When you’re getting all these different types of techniques, he does have the ability to change some of his routes and him and Ryan have to be on the same page.
“Even going back to the spring to him not practicing as much. Our timing has to pick up. We missed some things earlier in the game and you’re like, that doesn’t really look right. We put a lot on his plate as far as what we has to do and the options he has and he has to be right. He has done a great job as far as getting it mentally and being able to execute it on the field and then making the play. The margin of error for him [on that last play] was really slim. Ryan put the ball where it needed to be and he ran a really good route.”
Gase said Parker “may have been a little inconsistent as far as his preparation throughout the week earlier in the season to where one week we’d have a really good week, everything was right on cue, he did everything right as far what was going into his body and how he’s practicing. I think the last three weeks, for sure, he has been very consistent.”
Here are my four Dolphins links from Monday:
On Jimmy Johnson’s thoughts and some eye-opening historical perspective on what the Dolphins are doing as far as late-game comebacks, please click here.
On Jason Jones’ two-game suspension and the player signed to replace him, please click here.
On everything Adam Gase had to say of note on Monday, please click here.
And for an in-depth look at what Ryan Tannehill is doing and where he ranks compared with other quarterbacks, please click here.
And please follow me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz) for immediate links to posts.