Christmas is normally the NBA’s domain now, but the NFL is challenging the traditional NBA quintuple-header with two games on Sunday. And aside from the four teams actually playing that day (Baltimore-Pittsburgh at 4:30 on NFL Net, Denver-Kansas City at 8:30 on NBC), those games mean more to the Dolphins than any other team, making Christmas more interesting for Dolfans than anyone ever could have envisioned.
Asking and answering playoff queries:
• So we all know Miami can make the playoffs with two wins or with one win and one Denver loss. But what if Miami wins only one game and Denver doesn’t lose at all? Would the Dolphins make it then?
In some cases yes, but it depends partly on whether it’s a tie involving two teams or more. If Miami and Denver both finish 10-6 and no other wild-card contenders go 10-6, Denver would beat out Miami for the second wild card spot in a two-team tie because of one of two tiebreakers. Denver would edge out Miami in record vs. common opponents if Miami’s loss is against the Patriots.
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If the Dolphins lose to Buffalo and beat New England, the Dolphins and Broncos would have the same record against common opponents, but Denver would edge Miami because of strength of victory (meaning Denver’s opponents have a higher winning percentage).
But if Kansas City, Denver and Miami are the only wild-card contenders that finish 10-6, the Dolphins and Chiefs would be the wild-card teams, with Miami the No. 5 seed. In that scenario, KC wins a tiebreaker over Denver (better division record) but loses one to Miami (which has the better record against common opponents).
• What if Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Dolphins, Chiefs and Broncos finish 10-6?
Baltimore wins the AFC North in that scenario, and Pittsburgh and the Dolphins would be the wild-card teams in that four-team Steelers/Chiefs/Dolphins/Broncos tiebreaker. That’s because KC wins a tiebreaker over Denver (better division record), but Pittsburgh wins a tiebreaker over KC and Miami because of a better conference record. So Pittsburgh would be No. 5 seed.
Miami would be the No. 6 seed in that scenario because it would own a tiebreaker over Kansas City (better record against common opponents).
But if Kansas City finishes 11-5, a multi-team tie at 10-6 is trouble for Miami. If Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver and Miami finish 10-6, Baltimore wins the AFC North and Pittsburgh gets the second wild card because it would have the best conference record.
So in three-, four- or five-team ties involving Denver and Miami, the Dolphins need the Chiefs essentially to offset Denver. That’s because the first step in resolving multi-team wild-card ties is breaking a tie within the same division. And the Chiefs would own the tiebreaker over Denver.
• Can the Dolphins climb up to the No. 5 seed?
Yes. Though the sixth seed is more likely, here’s one way Miami could be fifth: The Dolphins win their final two games and the Chiefs split their final two games (Denver and at San Diego). In that scenario, Miami is the fifth seed and the Chiefs are the sixth because the Dolphins have a better record than KC in common games.
Here’s another: Miami and Kansas City finish 10-6 and Denver 9-7. Miami is the fifth seed and the Chiefs are the sixth in this case. If Miami, KC, Pittsburgh and Baltimore all finish 10-6 and Denver 9-7, the Steelers would be the fifth seed and Miami the sixth.
Finishing fifth likely, but not definitely, would mean a first-round game at Tennessee or at Houston. Finishing sixth likely means opening at Pittsburgh or at Baltimore.
• Can the Dolphins make the playoffs if they lose both their games?
Yes. But it would require Baltimore losing to Pittsburgh and to Cincinnati or Pittsburgh losing to Baltimore and Cleveland; plus Tennessee losing to Jacksonville and Houston; Denver losing to Kansas City and Oakland, plus the Colts losing once and possibly Buffalo losing to the Jets (depending on a strength of schedule tiebreaker not yet resolved).
• Should Dolphins fans be worried about Tennessee’s win against Miami?
Only if the Dolphins lose both their remaining games. If Miami wins one of its last two to get to 10 wins, then it cannot be tied with the Titans for a wild card-berth. That’s because only one AFC South team (Houston or Tennessee) can reach 10 wins, and that team would win the AFC South.
• Should Dolphins fans be worried about Baltimore’s win against Miami?
Only if the Dolphins lose both their remaining games. If Baltimore wins out to get to 10 wins, it would win the AFC North, making the Ravens’ win against Miami moot in that case.
For today’s post with more Dolphins news (including Rex Ryan’s Dolphins musings), plus Heat, UM and Marlins news, please click here.