The 9-3 Miami Dolphins woke up Monday morning as the new No. 1 seed in the AFC. But by the time their heads hit the pillow at day’s end, they could be back out of the top spot in the conference with five to play.
That’s the downside of playing the AFC’s easiest schedule through the season’s 13 weeks.
But there is good news: The Dolphins can now assure themselves no worse than the AFC’s No. 2 seed — and give them an excellent shot at a first-round bye — if they win out.
Miami Dolphins’ Playoff Picture Through Sunday’s Games
The big AFC news of the weekend was the Packers’ home upset of the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) Sunday night, which both dropped the Chiefs to the No. 4 seed and took care of Miami’s biggest head-to-head weakness.
The Chiefs owned pretty much every tiebreaker against the Dolphins by virtue of their win in Germany a few weeks back and a superior conference record, strength of schedule, and strength of victory.
That all changes now that Kansas City has a fourth loss — becoming the only AFC division leader with more than three. (Don’t count the Chiefs out altogether, however; their remaining schedule — .390 — is the fourth-easiest in football and by far the easiest of the division leaders.)
So if the Dolphins win their last five games, they’re now guaranteed to finish ahead of both the Chiefs and the projected AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens (who, at 9-3, are currently the AFC’s second seed).
The Dolphins and Ravens meet in Week 17, a game that could ultimately decide the AFC’s top seed.
But there’s one variable in this equation over which the Dolphins have no control: the Jacksonville Jaguars.
No one’s talking about the dudes from Duval, but they should be. The Jaguars (8-3 through Sunday’s games, the No. 3 team in the AFC) are the one team left that could block the Dolphins, even if Mike McDaniel’s bunch runs the table.
Why? The Jaguars, at 14-3, would have the edge on the Dolphins on common opponents. The Jaguars, in that scenario, would have one loss against those common foes (the Chiefs, Bills, Titans, and Ravens). The Dolphins already have two, losing to both Kansas City and Buffalo.
So the Dolphins still need some help. The likeliest place that help will come? In Week 15, when the Jags host the Ravens.
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