The Dolphins’ loss at Buffalo on Sunday badly damaged Miami’s already precarious playoff hopes, but it didn’t completely eliminate them.
There’s still a way for Miami to somehow make it to postseason, requiring seven not-so-simple steps.
Here’s what would need to happen for the Dolphins to sneak into postseason as the AFC’s sixth seed, according to ESPN’s playoff machine:
▪ Miami must win Sunday at Kansas City and Dec. 31 at home against Buffalo to finish 8-8.
▪ The Tennessee Titans must lose at home to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday and at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 31 to finish 8-8.
▪ The 6-8 Oakland Raiders must lose one game. Oakland plays at Philadelphia in the final Monday Night Football game on Christmas and then finishes the season at the Chargers.
▪ The 7-7 Chargers must lose one game. They play Sunday at the Jets before closing with the Raiders.
▪ The New England Patriots must beat visiting Buffalo on Sunday.
If all of those things happen, the Dolphins would have a playoff game Jan. 6 or 7, potentially at Jacksonville or whoever else finishes as the third seed.
Making his second NFL start in the absence of injured Andre Branch, rookie defensive end Charles Harris finished Sunday’s game as the Dolphins’ highest-rated defensive player, according to Pro Football Focus.
Harris played 43 of Miami’s 63 defensive snaps (the second most he has played all year) and produced six quarterback pressures (second-most for all 4-3 defensive ends in Week 15) and two quarterback hits. Harris’ pass rushing productivity (a formula which factors in sacks/hits/hurries per pass-rushing snap) was 22.2, the best for any edge rusher this past weekend.
▪ The Dolphins’ highest-graded player on offense Sunday? Surprisingly, right tackle Sam Young, who has played well in Ja’Wuan James’ absence. (James is out for the season.)
Young allowed just one quarterback hurry in 55 pass-blocking snaps and has allowed just one QB sack for the season in 324 total snaps played. PFF ranks Young 41st of 85 tackles this season.
Meanwhile, left tackle Laremy Tunsil graded out best of all tackles in Week 16, according to PFF, though Tunsil committed another penalty, giving him 12 for the season, second-most in the league.
▪ Kenyan Drake played 72 of Miami’s 75 snaps on offense and leads all running backs the past three weeks with 265 yards after contact. He ranks second in total snaps (190) and forced missed tackles (12).
▪ Quarterbacks have just a 65.1 passer rating in Xavien Howard’s coverage area, ranking Howard 13th best of 120 cornerbacks.
▪ To compensate for the absence of Branch and William Hayes, the Dolphins gave 22 snaps apiece to Terrence Fede and Cameron Malveaux in relief of Harris (43 snaps) and Cam Wake (39).
▪ With cornerback Cordrea Tankersley out, Miami gave Alterraun Verner 28 snaps, Bobby McCain 62 and Jordan Lucas six. Howard played 62 of 63 defensive snaps.