There will be no poring over playoff permutations at Dolphins headquarters this week, no mathematical analysis of odds.
But Dolphins fans are certainly encouraged to do that, and this should give them hope:
Not only are the Dolphins playing their best football since September, but Baltimore --- their chief challenger for the final AFC playoff spot --- faces a daunting schedule.
Whereas the 7-6 Dolphins play one quality team (the Patriots) and two with losing records (at Buffalo and home against the Jets), the 7-6 Ravens close with games against three division leaders: at Detroit, New England and at Cincinnati.
So even though the Ravens would win a two-team tiebreaker against the Dolphins, playoffstatus.com actually gives the Dolphins a 55 percent chance of making the playoffs, compared with 33 percent for the Ravens.
But remember, the Dolphins need to finish with a better record than Baltimore should those two teams --- and only those two teams -- finish tied for the final playoff berth.
A half-dozen additional points to keep in mind on Miami’s playoff chances:
### The Dolphins would win a two-team tiebreaker with San Diego by virtue of their victory over the the Chargers (6-7). But even though the Chargers still have a chance for the final AFC wild card berth, a strong case could be made for the Dolphins to root for them to win.
Here’s why: If the Dolphins and Ravens finish 1-2 in their final three games, and if San Diego goes 2-1, the Dolphins would win a three-team tiebreaker if the Ravens’ two losses are against AFC teams (Patriots and Bengals).
Here’s why: In three-time tiebreakers, head-to-head is not used if all three teams are from different divisions and didn’t play each other. The Chargers and Ravens don’t play this season, which renders the Ravens’ win against the Dolphins moot in his scenario.
Conference record would then be used as the tiebreaker. And in this scenario –-- with Baltimore losing to the Pats and Bengals to close the season --– the Dolphins would have a better conference record than the Ravens or Chargers.
The Dolphins are 6-3 in the AFC, Baltimore 6-4 and San Diego 3-6.
San Diego’s three remaining games: at Denver and home against Oakland and Kansas City.
Incidentally, best won-loss percentage in common games would be the third three-team tiebreaker.
### If the Jets (5-7) finish tied with the Dolphins and Ravens for the final playoff spot, that wouldn’t help Miami. That’s because in three-team wild card ties involving two teams from the same division, the Jets/Dolphins tie would be resolved first.
If Miami won that tiebreaker (and that still has to play out), Baltimore would earn the nod based on beating Miami. The Jets, incidentally, finish with these games: at Carolina, home against Cleveland and at the Dolphins.
### The Dolphins would win the AFC East only if they win their final three games and the Patriots lose their final three. (Miami would win the tiebreaker based on superior division record in that scenario.)
The Patriots have two challenging games (at Dolphins, at Ravens), but will be heavily favored in their finale, at home against Buffalo.
### There’s still a chance the Ravens could catch the Bengals in the AFC North, which wouldn’t necessarily hurt Miami.
If Baltimore goes 3-0 and the Bengals go 1-2, the teams would be tied and Ravens would win the tiebreaker, presuming they win at Cincinnati in their season finale to sweep their season series. The Dolphins would then win a two-team head-to-head tiebreaker with Cincinnati if they’re tied for the last wild card spot.
Cincinnati’s remaining schedule: at Pittsburgh and home games against Minnesota and Baltimore.
### Dolphins fans will not be distracted by Ravens scores during Dolphins games the next two weeks. That’s because Baltimore will be playing in prime time: next Monday at Detroit, and the following Sunday night against the Patriots.
### If the Dolphins make the playoffs, they would almost assuredly be the No. 6 seed and play the No. 3 seed --- which would likely be Cincinnati or New England, if the Bengals can overtake the Patriots. The Colts still have a mathematical chance at the No. 3 seed despite losing to Cincinnati.
Couple other quick things:
### Lamar Miller left Sunday's game with a concussion, but his agent Drew Rosenhaus said on his WSVN-Fox segment on Sunday night that he expects Miller to play next Sunday. "He sounded pretty good," Rosenhaus said. "He thought he would be OK."
### The Dolphins gave Sam Brenner 48 snaps and Nate Garner 16 at left guard Sunday.
### The weekly Dion Jordan snap count update (beyond special teams, of course): He played 25 of Miami's 69 defensive snaps -- five on running plays, 14 in which he rushed the quarterback (he was credited with one hurry) and six in coverage.
### Back from a groin injury, Dimitri Patterson played sparingly (12 snaps).
### Please check back in a couple hours for updates from today's Dolphins press conferences.