(CBSMiami)- The Dolphins got back on track on Sunday with a 20-3 win over the hapless New York Jets to improve to 7-4 in Brian Flores’ second season. Thanks to the win, they currently sit in the second Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff standings, ahead of the Colts thanks to a better win percentage in conference games. With five weeks remaining in the season, it would seem that the first playoff appearance since 2016 is within reach. The projection models aren’t quite as rosy giving the Dolphins between a 43 and 47 percent chance of making the postseason.
FiveThirtyEight’s projection model puts them at 47 percent to make the playoffs while ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) has it at 43.9 percent. Those numbers are being influenced by a number of factors, not the least of which is the remaining schedule which FPI sees as the league’s ninth-hardest. Outside of this week’s game against the 2-8-1 Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins have home games against the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1) and Patriots (5-6) before hitting the road to face Las Vegas (6-5) and Buffalo (8-3).READ MORE: Florida House Panel To Weigh Pot Potency
That makes for a rough road the rest of the way. And, that doesn’t consider the quarterback situation which has been in flux to say the least. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa has had a bumpy first few appearances before missing this past week’s game due to a thumb injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the team to the win over the Jets. There has been no waver in Flores’ commitment to Tua as the starter however with the coach affirming again on Sunday that, if healthy, Tua is the guy.
“Yeah, if he’s healthy, he’s the guy. I don’t know how many different ways we have to continue to say that,” Flores said. “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well.”
That vote of confidence means that as long as Tua is healthy, he will be the guy pushing for the playoffs this year. Does that give them the best chance of making the playoffs? Well, according to FiveThirtyEight’s ELO ratings, no. But, the commitment to the rookie is about the long-term more than this year anyway.READ MORE: Florida City Vaccination Site Overwhelmed After False Rumor It Had No Restrictions
Still, the 40+ percent chance of the postseason this season can’t be ignored. So, what are the most likely scenarios for the Dolphins making the postseason? Well, they’re favored this Sunday against Cincinnati which would bump their chances above 50 percent (52 to be precise) in FiveThirtyEight’s model. From there out, it’s a question of which of the final four games they can pull an upset.
Using the win probability model at FiveThirtyEight, the Dolphins are an above 50 percent chance in just one of those contests, against the Patriots in Week 15 (53%). The next closest chance at an upset per the model would be their game against the Las Vegas Raiders on December 26th which they are given a 43 percent win probability.
Those aren’t necessarily encouraging numbers. But, there are some hopeful signs for the team generally. The Dolphins are have the third-best point differential in the AFC (+79). They hold that tiebreaker over Indy as of the moment. And they face two of the teams behind them in the playoff hunt in the Raiders and Patriots. Take care of business in those two games along with Cincinnati this Sunday and the playoff berth would be well on its way. And, the Raiders play the Colts in Week 14, offering an opportunity for Indy to help the Dolphins with a win.MORE NEWS: Miami-Dade PD Arrests 19-Year-Old Wanted For Deadly Triple Shooting
You can play with a full playoff simulator here, but the Dolphins will likely need to win three of their final five games to assure a playoff spot. Is that doable? We’ll find out starting Sunday when the Bengals come to town with kickoff set for 1:00 p.m. EST.