With only a few weeks left in the season, I figured now was as good a time as any to spend way too much time on the NFL Playoff Machine. Though little time remains, there are still some unlikely, yet nonetheless fascinating finishes that could happen. Below is a little bit of what I determined, as well as some comments and opinions.
At the conclusion of week 14:
Miami currently has control over its own destiny. If the team goes 3-0 (finishing 11-5), based on the current tiebreaker scenarios, they are in - whether it be via the wildcard or because Buffalo choked. The 10-win-and-in train took a pretty major blow this week, but one loss didn't necessarily ruin all hopes. Should Miami fail to win out, it will become up to other teams to lose.
Is definitely still in play. Buffalo still has to win games, and there are still possible scenarios where they don't even make the playoffs. There are also scenarios where they become the 2 seed in the entire AFC. That being said, for Miami to win the division, it's a no brainer: Buffalo would need to lose all 3 and Miami win all 3. Even if the Phins win week 17, Buffalo still has the tiebreaker should the records be the same.
As of now, Miami is the 7 seed, followed by the Colts (6) and the Browns (5). These are the teams in the mix for the wildcards (in no specific order):
Colts (9-4): Texans, @Steelers, Jaguars - Miami has tiebreaker
Titans (9-4): Lions, @Packers, Texans - Titans have tiebreaker
Browns (9-4): @Giants, @Jets, Steelers - Miami has tiebreaker
Ravens (8-5): Jaguars, Giants, @Bengals - (as of today) *Ravens have tiebreaker
*This one is a bit unique because if the Ravens lose to the Giants, they would still have the tiebreaker; but if they lose to either the Jaguars or Bengals, Miami would then have the tiebreaker.
New England (6-7) and Vegas (7-6) aren't eliminated based on the math, but since Miami has to play both, I figured I could update those teams as needed.
Two immediate concerns are that no teams ahead of Miami have to play each other, and 50% of the games include the Jaguars, Texans, Bengals, and Jets. Not exactly relieving to see. Miami should be rooting for Tennessee to win the AFC South, and for either the Colts and Browns (or both) to finish with 10 wins. If either team does, Miami can realistically get in with a 10-6 record.
Based on the Colts' schedule, I find it hard to imagine them finishing with less than 11 wins. But I've seen crazier - can't forget the lone Jaguars win this year (week 1) came against the Colts, which funny enough is having a pretty big impact on this playoff race.
All in all, if Miami doesn't go 3-0, it may very well come down to how badly the Giants want to win a division or how badly the Steelers want a better seed in the playoffs. But Miami is going to win out and make this all moot anyways, right?
If you noticed something I didn't, or have any thoughts/concerns, feel free to comment. Should be a wild finish to an already chaotic season. Hoping for the best.