The AFC still has all of its Wild Card spots to address in the final week of the NFL’s regular season, as well as the AFC South Division Title.
While the Miami Dolphins can’t win that division, they are very much alive in the Wild Card chase, coming as one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Miami, who finished 5-11 last year, currently hold a 10-5 record, just like the four other Wild Card hopefuls. The Dolphins have the easiest scenario to clinch a playoff berth, all they have to do is win this weekend and they’re in, but have the toughest remaining opponent out of the mix in order to do so. Miami will be looking to win and get in the playoffs for the first time since 2017 when it dropped a 30-12 Wild Card decision to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
How Does Miami Win and Get In?
Due to numerous tie-breaking scenarios for the remaining AFC teams, Miami has the upper hand when it comes to what it needs to happen this weekend to clinch a berth. All the factors get a little dicey and complicated, but the short version is the NFL looks at many factors. In the Dolphins case, factors such as strength of schedule, AFC record, division record and record against remaining playoff hopefuls come into play (NFL.com).
Miami will take its win and in scenario to Buffalo and face the Bills with their 10th ranked defense. Something the Dolphins don’t like hearing with a struggling offense who still has some holes that still won’t be plugged in time for Sunday. Additionally, Buffalo has the eighth-best passing defense that allows an average of 222 passing yards per game. Miami will have to hope quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can muster more than 97 yards into the fourth quarter than he did last week in Las Vegas.
The Dolphins however may be able to take advantage of their newfound run game with RB Myles Gaskin. The Bills are 20th against the run, allowing on average 122 rushing yards per game.
If Miami can take advantage of the few holes Buffalo is showing this season, it should give it a run for its money. In week two, the Dolphins also lost to the Bills by just three points in a game that saw a lot of key defensive players out for Miami, as well as a different QB.
There Are Also Questions in Buffalo
Nothing is for certain yet, but there is a chance the Bills could rest their starters after already securing the AFC East title and a playoff berth. Buffalo also cannot clinch a first round bye and have nothing to play for. More likely than not however, the Bills will likely play their starters to be sure they secure their No. 2 seed, meaning QB Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs are on deck for a good chunk of the contest. On Monday Night Football alone the duo connected for three touchdowns and have been one of the best pairings in the NFL this season.
The only reason the Bills could make the switch to rest them is because the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the only team who can jump them in the standings, have already announced that they are resting their starters on Sunday. Pittsburgh has already won the AFC North and cannot clinch a first round bye.
Other AFC Playoff Implications – The AFC South
The AFC South title will come down to the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Currently, the Titans hold the title but week 17 results can change that.
Like Miami, a Tennessee outright win clinches them. The Titans are on the road in Houston to play the 4-11 Texans, whose matchup came down to the final drive just weeks ago.
For the Colts, Indianapolis is clearly cheering for their division rival and also needing to take care of business against their other division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars. While it may seem laughable to think Indianapolis would have trouble with a one-win team who is on a 14-game losing streak, the Jaguars started off the season 1-0 after defeating the Colts.
Additionally, the Colts can also clinch a playoff spot without winning the division, although the path is much more difficult. They must win as they are on the bottom of most tiebreakers. They will also need losses from Miami, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns as well.
More Playoff Scenarios & More Miami Game Notes
-Other scenarios such as ties come into play as well, as do the scenarios for the other teams listed above, and those can all be found here.