Barry Jackson

Dolphins’ playoff hopes take a hit. Here’s what must happen for Miami to make postseason

Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage (27) runs the ball on a wildcat play against Minneaota. The Dolphins maintain slim playoff hopes entering Sunday’s game against Jacksonville.
Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage (27) runs the ball on a wildcat play against Minneaota. The Dolphins maintain slim playoff hopes entering Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins’ playoff hopes weren’t extinguished Saturday but they’re now on life support.

They received no help from the Washington Redskins, who lost to the Tennessee Titans, and received no assist from the Los Angeles Chargers, who were upset at home by the Baltimore Ravens.

And here’s where that leaves Miami (7-7):

Even if the Dolphins win Sunday against visiting Jacksonville, they would be eliminated from playoff contention before Week 17 if Indianapolis (8-6) beats the visiting New York Giants and New England (9-5) defeats visiting Buffalo. Both the Colts and Patriots will be heavy favorites Sunday.

The Dolphins also would be eliminated Sunday if they lose at home to Jacksonville.

Washington could have given the Dolphins’ playoff hopes a significant boost if the Redskins had been able to win at Tennessee on Saturday. But the Titans rallied to improve to 9-6.

That, combined with Baltimore’s win, left only a couple of ways for the Dolphins to make the playoffs:

The Dolphins would win the AFC East if they beat Jacksonville and win at Buffalo and if the Patriots lose at home to the Bills and Jets. The Patriots will be heavy home favorites the final two weeks of the season, so the odds are against this scenario.

The Dolphins would claim a wild card spot if they win their final two; if the Colts lose to the Giants but then win at Tennessee in Week 17; if Baltimore loses at home to Cleveland and if Pittsburgh wins one game (either at the Saints or home to Cincinnati).

In that scenario, the Steelers would win the AFC North, and the Dolphins, Ravens, Colts and Titans would all finish 9-7. In that scenario, Miami would win the four-team tiebreaker and would be the AFC’s sixth seed.

But if the Steelers (8-5-1) lose their final two games, Baltimore (9-6) would win the AFC North even if it loses to Cleveland.

In that scenario, even if the Colts lose to the Giants and beat the Titans – and even if Miami wins out - Indianapolis would win a three-team wild card tiebreaker with Miami and Tennessee.

And if the Steelers win their final two games and Baltimore beats visiting Cleveland, the Steelers would win the AFC North and Miami would be eliminated.

Here’s my full Saturday night report from AmericanAirlines Arena, with postscripts, notes and reaction from the Heat’s fourth win in a row.

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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