Though the odds are against the Dolphins in their battle for the AFC’s second wild-card spot, there’s one thing that should give a measure of hope to a handful of teams chasing the Baltimore Ravens for that prize:
The Ravens must play at the Chiefs on Sunday and at the Chargers on Dec. 23 and will be underdogs in both games. Teams pursuing the Ravens for that final playoff spot need Baltimore to lose at least one of those two, if not both, because Baltimore will be clearly favored in its other two games, at home against Tampa and Cleveland.
The Ravens, at 7-5, hold a one-game lead over the Dolphins, Indianapolis, Denver and Tennessee, who are all 6-6. The Chargers, at 9-3, are in good shape to land the other wild-card spot and still have the chance to overtake Kansas City for the AFC West title.
The Dolphins have a schedule that might only be slightly less difficult than Baltimore’s, with home games against New England and Jacksonville and road games at Minnesota and Buffalo.
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If the Dolphins lose another game, a loss against their one remaining NFC opponent (the Vikings) would be least hurtful because conference record looms large as a wild-card tiebreaker. But any loss at all would damage the Dolphins’ hopes unless they get help.
The Dolphins are 5-4 in the AFC, which trails Baltimore’s 6-3 AFC record but is better than the conference records of the Colts (5-5), Titans (4-6) and Broncos (4-5).
Even though the Dolphins lost to Indianapolis (and beat Tennessee), the Dolphins are the No. 7 team at the moment – ahead of the three other 6-6 teams – by virtue of conference record.
In multiteam ties, head-to-head comes into play only if one of the teams has swept the others. And the Colts and Broncos don’t play this season, as one example, meaning Miami can win some three-team tiebreakers with the Colts even though they wouldn’t win a two-team tiebreaker with Indianapolis.
Among the four AFC teams that are 6-6 and chasing Baltimore for the second wild card spot, the Broncos and Titans have the easiest remaining schedules.
Denver has games at San Francisco and Oakland and home games against Cleveland and the Chargers.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has home games against Jacksonville, Washington and Indianapolis and a road game at the Giants.
Indianapolis has home games against the Giants and Cowboys and road games at Houston and Tennessee.
As it is, Dolphins have only a 6 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Football Outsiders gives them 9.5 percent chance.
THIS AND THAT
Coach Adam Gase admitted Monday he was so concerned that Buffalo’s Josh Allen was going to complete his fourth-down pass to Charles Clay with 53 seconds left on Sunday that “I started thinking about what I was calling in a two-minute” drill.
Said Gase: “The longer the play extends, the harder it is for everybody to see where he’s going.”
▪ Gase said it’s too early to tell if receiver Danny Amendola or center Travis Swanson will be healthy enough to play Sunday against New England. He said cornerback Cornell Armstrong’s knee injury Sunday was not serious.
▪ Asked if Xavien Howard –who has a league-leading seven interceptions – is playing at a Pro Bowl level, Gase said: “Yeah, probably. He’s pretty good.”
▪ Though right guard Jesse Davis had a tough day, allowing two sacks and committing a penalty, Gase defended him in the sense that he was facing five-time Pro Bowler Kyle Williams. “He will expose you as fast as possible,” Gase said.
Even after catching a 74-yard touchdown pass the previous week, Leonte Carroo did not get a single offensive snap at receiver Sunday. Kenny Stills played 48 of Miami’s 55 offensive snaps, DeVante Parker 46, Brice Butler 34 and Isaiah Ford 13.
▪ At running back, Kenyan Drake played 30 snaps, Frank Gore 20, Kalen Ballage eight and Brandon Bolden three. Bolden got his first rushing attempt of the season, and he gained 10 yards.
“I have been waiting for a while to get Brandon involved,” Gase said. “He runs hard. He was a good running back when he came out of college.”
▪ Nick O’Leary logged 32 of the tight end snaps, Mike Gesicki 22 and Durham Smythe 17.
▪ MInkah Fitzpatrick played every defensive snap for the first time (72), with Reshad Jones, Kiko Alonso and TJ McDonald. Xavien Howard played 71….
At linebacker, Raekwon McMillan (46 snaps) played more than Jerome Baker (31)… Akeem Spence (45 snaps) played the most of the defensive linemen, and Andre Branch (40 snaps) played more than Cam Wake (38).
▪ The Bills’ 415 yards on Sunday easily topped the 274 they were averaging entering the game, which ranked 29th in the league. The Dolphins defense ranks 29th in yards per game and 20th in points per game relinquished.