Barry Jackson

Dolphins with chance to move to fifth seed; exploring scenarios after Saturday’s win

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs in to score in the second quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016.
Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs in to score in the second quarter as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Not only do the Dolphins clinch a playoff berth with a win against New England or a Denver loss (to Kansas City or Oakland), but they also now have a real chance to move up to the fifth seed, which would likely mean opening at the AFC South winner instead of at Pittsburgh or at Baltimore.

Miami (10-5) would be the fifth seed if they and 10-4 Kansas City both finish 11-5, by virtue of Miami’s better record in common games. The Chiefs host Denver on Sunday and then close at San Diego.

The Dolphins also would be the fifth seed if they lose next Sunday but finish in a three-team tie, at 10-6, with Kansas City and Denver. If Baltimore, Pittsburgh, the Dolphins, Chiefs and Broncos all finish 10-6, the Steelers would be the fifth seed and Miami sixth, with the Ravens winning the AFC North.

So how could the Dolphins miss the playoffs? Here are a couple of ways:

The Dolphins would miss postseason if Miami loses to New England; Denver wins twice, plus Kansas City wins at San Diego to get to 11-5.

If Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver and Miami finish 10-6 and Kansas City is 11-5, Baltimore wins the AFC North and Pittsburgh gets the second wild card because it would have the best conference record.

So Dolphins fans should root for Pittsburgh to beat Baltimore, to eliminate the Ravens as a potential wild-card team.

So in three-, four- or five-team ties involving Denver and Miami, the Dolphins need the Chiefs as part of that tie 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 because the Chiefs are assured of having a better division record.

But if Denver isn’t tied with Kansas City, then the Broncos would win a natural two-team tie with the Dolphins for the last wild card berth. And, as noted, if the Steelers, Ravens, Broncos and Dolphins finish tied, Miami is doomed in that scenario if Kansas City isn’t involved.

POSTGAME REACTION

Here’s what Adam Gase had to say after Miami’s 34-31 overtime win Saturday in Buffalo:

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks about having a healthy team and the 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Dec. 24, 2106.

• Overall thoughts: “Offense did their part, defense came through when we need them to come through. It’s like what the whole year has been. That’s how the whole season has gone [close games]. Our guys are used to it. Wish they would make it a little less stressful.”

• On Andrew Franks’ 55-yard field goal to tie the score at the end of regulation: “I’m just glad it wasn’t 60. It was close enough. We’ve seen him make it in practice all the time.”

• On Miami’s running game, which produced 261 yards: “It’s a good front. When we had 200 yards earlier in the season, I don’t think we ever thought we would do it again. Eight man box most of the time. Our guys came in with a purpose, made sure we established a solid running game.”

• On Matt Moore, who had a 19 passer rating in the first half but finished with 233 yards passing and an 87.2 rating: “I didn’t get him in a very good rhythm. My thought going into the game was making sure Jay [had] a great rhythm to stay with it.”

• On Buffalo rushing for 272 yards: “They were the No. 1 rushing team in football coming into the game. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We did everything we could to make sure we came out on top.”

• How does Gase feel about what Miami has accomplished? “Right now no time to start popping champagne.”

• Will he watch the Denver game? “We’ll see. We’ll see what’s going on.”

THIS AND THAT

• Jay Ajayi, who finished with 206 yards on 32 carries, joins OJ Simpson, Earl Campbell and Tiki Barber as the only players in NFL history with three 200-yard rushing games in the same season.

• Besides their good work with run-blocking, credit the Dolphins’ offensive line for not allowing a sack to a team that entered third in the league in that category. Miami, conversely, had two sacks - by Cam Wake and Jason Jones.

• Wake’s sack in the second quarter gave him 11.5 for the season. He now has 81.5 sacks in his career, which moves him into a tie for second place (Pittsburgh's James Harrison) among undrafted players in NFL history. The 81.5 sacks also moves him in front of former Dolphins DE/LB Jason Taylor for the most sacks by a Dolphins player in their first eight seasons with the team.

What’s more, the Dolphins are 10-0 this season when Wake has a sack.

• Kenny Stills’ eighth touchdown catch ties him for sixth in the league in that category. Jordy Nelson leads with 12.

• Matt Moore: “This is a true team. The mindset of these guys has been extremely focused. We’ve won a couple close games, which is big. Always hard to fall on the other end of a game like this.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore speaks to the media after the Dolphins' 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Dec. 24, 2106.

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