The Dolphins go into Week 16 of the 2020 NFL regular season with a good chance to earn their first AFC wild-card spot since 2016. At 9-5, Miami would be the No. 7 in the AFC’s expanded playoff field if the playoffs started today.
But how do the Dolphins make sure to secure their spot in the conference tournament? Here’s a look at their playoff or non-playoff fate tied to the three different ways they can finish in the final two weeks:
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1. Dolphins go 2-0 to finish 11-5
The Dolphins finish the season on the road, at the Bills (11-4). Buffalo, having wrapped up the AFC East title in Week 15, might be in position to rest players in Week 17 if it gets locked into the No. 2 seed in Week 16.
Should the Dolphins take care of their own business by winning out, they would be in the playoffs. The Dolphins, with a 6-4 conference record, hold the tiebreaker over the also 9-5 Ravens, who can finish no better than 7-5 in AFC play.
2. Dolphins close 1-1 to finish 10-6
The Dolphins would be in real trouble here if they lose to the Bills. The Ravens have a very favorable remaining schedule, vs. the Giants (5-9) and at the Bengals (3-10-1).
Say the Ravens lose to the Giants but beat the Bengals in this scenario. Then both the Ravens and Dolphins would be 10-6 with identical conference records of 7-5. Then the final AFC wild-card spot would come down to the common-games tiebreaker.
The Dolphins and the Ravens both played the Patriots, Bengals, Chiefs and Jaguars. The Dolphins would be 3-2 in those games. The Ravens would also be 3-2 in those games. Then comes the strength-of-victory tiebreaker. Thanks to wins over the 10-4 Browns (twice) and 10-4 Colts, the Ravens would have that tiebreaker and get in over the Dolphins.
Say the Ravens beat the Giants but lose to the Bengals in this scenario. Then the Dolphins still get in at 10-6 with a better conference record, 7-5 vs. 6.6.
Yes, there’s the potential of the Colts-Titans AFC South runners-up and/or Browns also finishing 10-6, which would create a cluster of wackiness. In an highly unlikely three- or four-way tie that breaks the right way, both the Dolphins and Ravens can get in at the expense of one other team.
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