After Sunday’s blowout loss in Minnesota, any discussion of the Dolphins’ playoff chances might elicit a response similar to the one that then-Colts coach Jim Mora famously delivered in 2001:
“Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”
But here’s the good news for the 7-7 Dolphins: There are at least five ways they can still make the postseason.
But here’s the bad news: All of those scenarios would require at least one surprising result involving other teams.
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And there’s this: If Tennessee, Indianapolis and New England all win as home favorites next weekend, the Dolphins will be eliminated from playoff contention, making Miami’s Week 17 game at Buffalo meaningless from a postseason standpoint.
The Titans play host to the Redskins on Saturday, while the Colts host the Giants on Sunday and New England hosts Buffalo on Sunday. Miami, meanwhile, hosts Jacksonville on Sunday.
Here are five ways the Dolphins could make the playoffs:
▪ The Dolphins could win the AFC East only one way — if they beat the Jaguars and win at Buffalo while New England loses at home to both Buffalo and the Jets. The Patriots will be heavy home favorites the final two weeks of the season, so this appears the most unlikely scenario for Miami.
▪ Miami would claim the AFC’s final playoff spot (the sixth seed) if it beats Jacksonville and Buffalo; if the Chargers beat the Ravens on Saturday night; if Washington beats Tennessee; and if Tennessee then beats the visiting Colts in Week 17. This might be the most realistic way for Miami to make it, though it would require the Redskins to pull off an upset in Nashville on Saturday.
▪ The Dolphins would claim a wild-card spot if they win their final two; if the Colts, Titans and Ravens all lose in Week 16; and if the Ravens and Colts win in Week 17. (Baltimore hosts Cleveland in Week 17.) In that scenario, the Dolphins would win that three-team tie with Baltimore and Indianapolis.
▪ The Dolphins would make it if they win their final two; if the Colts, Titans and Ravens lose in Week 16; and if the Ravens and Titans win in Week 17. In that scenario, the Dolphins would win a three-team tie with Baltimore and Tennessee.
▪ The Dolphins would also make the playoffs in they win their final two; Baltimore loses to the Chargers but then beats the Browns; the Colts lose to the Giants; the Titans beat Washington; and then the Colts beat the Titans. In that scenario, Miami would win a four-team tiebreaker with the Ravens, Colts and Titans.
But the Dolphins would miss the playoffs if everything in that aforementioned sentence happens except the Ravens winning in Week 17. If Baltimore loses to Cleveland, then Miami would lose that particular three-team tiebreaker with the Colts and Titans.
The Dolphins would win a four-team tie or a three-team tie involving Baltimore. But to win a three-time tie with Tennessee and Indianapolis, Miami needs Tennessee to lose to Washington and beat the Colts.
All of this is enough to make Dolphins coach Adam Gase’s head spin. He said he won’t study playoff permutations this week.
“You have other teams that can affect our season, good or bad,” he said. “None of it matters if we can’t handle the next two games and figure out a way to win. We’re on the outside looking in.”
Gase, meanwhile, addressed a few issues in his Monday press briefing:
▪ Though he said he doesn’t know if Frank Gore’s foot injury will sideline him for the final two games, a source said he is not expected to play again this season.
▪ The fact Kenyan Drake got one carry and Kalen Ballage 12 was a coaching decision, Gase said, adding coaches like how Ballage has run at practice.
▪ Gase blamed everyone for the Dolphins allowing nine sacks in Sunday’s 41-17 loss.
“It was everybody,” he said. “We all took a part of it, including myself. A couple of protections, we probably should have done something different. Quarterbacks, running backs, O-line receivers getting open faster. It was the whole group.”
Did Tannehill miss a hot read? “We had one time we should have had a hot and we missed it,” Gase said. “The other ones, we had enough guys to block what they had and we didn’t get it done.”
The Dolphins have allowed 45 sacks, sixth most in the NFL.