Barry Jackson

Explaining Dolphins’ playoff scenarios after Sunday games

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore comes off the field Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016,after defeating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore comes off the field Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016,after defeating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

After a win Saturday and a few things breaking right for them on Sunday, the Dolphins stand just two steps from qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Dolphins can clinch a wild-card playoff berth next weekend if they win at Buffalo on Saturday and if Denver loses at Kansas City on Sunday night.

The Dolphins (9-5) also can clinch a playoff berth by simply winning their final two games: against the Bills and home against New England.

The Dolphins ended up in that enviable predicament primarily because Denver (8-6) lost to New England, but also because Oakland beat San Diego.

Had the Raiders lost, that would have left open the possibility of Oakland losing its final three games. And that would have left open the possibility of an Oakland-Pittsburgh-Dolphins three-way wild card tie that would have sent the Steelers to the playoffs by virtue of a superior conference record. Now that loophole has been closed.

It’s now not possible for there to be a three-way wild card tie that could oust Miami --- if Miami wins in Buffalo and Denver loses at KC:

Here’s why:

• A win on Saturday gets Miami to 10 wins.

• Oakland is at 11 wins and a KC win over Denver gets the Chiefs to 11 wins and leaves the Broncos at 8, meaning Denver couldn’t overtake Miami if the Dolphins win at Buffalo.

• Though Houston and Tennessee each have eight wins, only one can get to 10 because they play each other in Week 17. And if one of those teams gets to 10 wins, it will win the AFC South.

• Though Baltimore and Pittsburgh can finish tied, such a scenario would require Baltimore to win at Pittsburgh next Sunday, which would mean the Ravens would have swept the season series and thus would win a tiebreaker with the Steelers for the division title.

And even if the Steelers and Dolphins both finish with 10 wins, Miami would win a two-team tiebreaker by virtue of winning their head-to-head matchup.

If Baltimore loses to Pittsburgh on Christmas, the Steelers would win the division and the 8-6 Ravens could not catch the Dolphins in the wild card race if Miami wins at Buffalo.

But...

There’s still the possibility of a four-team wild-card tie if Kansas City loses twice, Miami wins once, Baltimore wins twice and Pittsburgh loses to Baltimore and then wins against Cleveland and Denver wins twice.

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), Pittsburgh wins a tiebreaker over KC and Miami because of a better conference record, and Miami wins a tiebreaker over KC in that scenario because of a better record in common games.

Pittsburgh would be the No. 5 seed and Miami the No. 6 seed in that scenario.

There’s still an outside chance Miami could move up to fifth in the conference, but sixth is more likely.

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks with the media about quarterback Matt Moore's game performance with the team's 34-13 victory over the New York Jets Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, at MetLife Stadium. Moore had a career-high four touchdown passes.

For everything notable Adam Gase said today, please click here.

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