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Dolphins still in thick of a wild card race

A common thought among some Dolphins faithful is that the team will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs unless it catches the New England Patriots and wins the AFC East -- which, granted, is looking like a difficult task.

Well, not so fast my fine, football friends.

Below you will find the current race for the AFC's wild-card spots. Remember there are two wild-card qualifiers. The chart suggests the Dolphins are very much in this deal if they can beat the Carolina Panthers tonight and put some sort of streak together.

The Dolphins currently find themselves two games out of the wild card race with seven games to play. It is not an impossible deficit to erase. Three games out with six games to play is obviously a much more daunting assignment.

The fact is Miami has already lost to San Diego so they are effectively two games plus a tiebreaker behind the Chargers. Miami also swept two games from New York so they count themselves ahead of the Jets. The Dolphins have games remaining with Pittsburgh, Houston, Tennessee and Buffalo.

Those remaining games mean the Dolphins can find themselves one game behind those teams -- Pittsburgh, Houston, Tennessee and Buffalo -- but still qualify ahead of them if they beat those teams.

So the Dolphins find themselves in the middle of the AFC pack. But to be considered in the AFC race, Miami's overall record is key. So games against NFC opponents are also vital. It does the Dolphins no good to have a solid AFC record but not be in the hunt because they cannot beat NFC teams.

So far this season the Dolphins have a 1-2 non-conference record -- they lost to Atlanta and New Orleans but defeated Tampa Bay.

The bottom line here is the Dolphins are still solidly in the race for a wild-card spot despite losing their starting quarterback, a starting tight end, a starting running back and a starting cornerback.

What they do tonight, however, will obviously factor into whether they stay in the thick of that race.

Team       Record   AFC

Pittsburgh   6-3   4-2

San Diego   6-3   4-3

Baltimore    5-4   5-3

Houston     5-4    4-3

Jacksonville 5-4    4-2

Miami        4-5    3-3

NY Jets     4-5    4-4

Tennessee  3-6   2-6

Buffalo       3-6   1-5

[BLOG NOTE: There will be, as always, a live blog of tonight's game versus Carolina. Come here prior to kickoff for the latest news and notes from the stadium and the live blog itself.]

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