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Season's Beatings: Dolphins playoff scenarios

The Miami Dolphins are leading the AFC East going into the final week of the 2008 NFL season.

But that doesn't mean that's where they'll be when the final week is over because the playoff picture for the Dolphins, Patriots and Jets will be decided based on the results of that fateful, final week.

So here is the deal:

The Dolphins MUST win to capture the AFC East title outright. They must at least tie and get help elsewhere to win the division or make the playoffs as a No. 6 seed. And if they lose at New York, the Dolphins are out of the playoffs.

If the Dolphins beat New York next week, they win the AFC East no matter what New England does. That would make the Dolphins the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and they would host either Baltimore or New England the following week. The opponent will be Baltimore if the Ravens beat Jacksonville. The opponent would be New England if the Patriots beat Buffalo AND Baltimore loses to Jacksonville.

The Dolphins winning is the dream scenario. The next best thing? The Dolphins can tie the Jets and still win the division assuming New England loses or ties against Buffalo. The Dolphins would have a better record than New York and hold the tiebreaker over New England.

If the Dolphins tie and New England wins, the Patriots would win the division.

The Dolphins can qualify as the No. 6 seed, but that assumes they tie the Jets, the Patriots win, thus winning the AFC East, and Baltimore loses to Jacksonville. In that scenario the Dolphins would visit New England the following week in the first round of the playoffs.

The nightmare comes if Miami loses to the Jets. If the Dolphins lose to the Jets, they are out of the playoffs. Period.

Meanwhile, NBC has just announced its flex Sunday night game will be Denver vs. San Diego for the AFC West title. The Dolphins and Jets will play Sunday afternoon.