(CBSMiami)- As the NFL rolls into its final three weeks of the regular season, the Dolphins remain right in the thick of the playoff picture sitting in the final Wild Card spot with an 8-5 record. The second year for coach Brian Flores and company has been a big step forward and making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2016 would be a great cap to the season. But, the remaining schedule leaves a difficult path for Miami to make the postseason as they face the most difficult final three games of any of their fellow AFC Wild Card hopefuls.
First, before we get to the breakdown, let’s acknowledge the fact that it is mathematically still possible for the Dolphins to win the division. However, that is highly unlikely as the Bills would need to lose their final three (@DEN, @NE, vs. MIA) and the Dolphins would need to win their final three (vs. NE, @ LV, @BUF).
Now, the Dolphins three remaining opponents have a combined 23-16 record which equates to a .589 winning percentage. The Browns and Colts (9-4) along with the Ravens (8-5), Raiders (7-6) and Patriots (6-7) are all competing for the three Wild Card spots with Miami. Here are those teams remaining games by winning percentage:
Browns- .410 winning percentage (@NYG, @NYJ, PIT)
Colts- .410 winning percentage (HOU, @PIT, JAX)
Ravens- .200 winning percentage (JAX, NYG, @CIN)
Raiders- .425 winning percentage (LAC, MIA, @DEN)
Patriots- .450 winning percentage (@MIA, BUF, NYJ)
It is that discrepancy in difficulty between the Dolphins and their competition for the playoffs that has projection models skeptical of the team’s chances. After losing to the Chiefs on Sunday combined with the rest of the league’s results, the Dolphins are being given just a 25% chance by FiveThirtyEight and 30.9% chance by ESPN’s FPI.
What do the ‘Fins need to do to make the postseason? Well, the quickest route would be to win their remaining three games. But, again, they’re considered underdogs against both the Raiders and Bills as of right now.
So, what happens if they win Sunday and lose their final two games to finish 9-7? The would need the Ravens to lose two of their final three games and the Raiders to do the same. Or, if they were to lose this week, beat the Raiders in Week 16 and lose to the Bills, the Raiders could win their other two games and it wouldn’t matter because the Dolphins would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
One thing to keep in mind is the Raiders just fired their defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, holding him responsible for what is the 28th ranked defense by Football Outsiders. So, despite the Dolphins currently being projected as underdogs in that matchup (46% win probability), it’s possible they pull out a win. So, what needs to happen if they finish 10-6 with wins over New England and Las Vegas?
That scenario eliminates Vegas by head-to-head tiebreaker. But, the Dolphins would still need the Ravens to lose one of their final three games and, as you saw above, Baltimore has the easiest remaining schedule.
What about the Browns and Colts you ask? Well, if Miami finishes 9-7, they would need the Colts or Browns to do the same. If both did, then the Browns and Dolphins would get in.
If the Dolphins finish 10-6, they would need at least one of the others to finish with that same record assuming that Baltimore runs the table or wins two of three.
The main point here is, the Dolphins have the most difficult task of any of the remaining AFC Wild Card contenders. It’s a task made all the more difficult by the fact that Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite target, tight end Mike Gesicki, is likely to miss this Sunday’s game against New England. The same goes for wide receiver Jakeem Grant. And, though they could see DaVante Parker back on the field Sunday after he left the Chiefs game early with a leg injury, it’s not a guarantee.
The Dolphins face an uphill battle for the postseason that starts Sunday when the New England Patriots come to town with kickoff at 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS.