The Miami Dolphins’ outlook for Week 17 is fairly straight forward. Win today against the Buffalo Bills and the Dolphins will be punching a ticket to the postseason to square off with the AFC South champion. That could either be the Indianapolis Colts or the Tennessee Titans depending on the outcomes of today’s games. But a loss for Miami isn’t necessarily guaranteed to be the final nail in the coffin — Miami has other avenues into the playoffs.
But the Browns, Colts and Ravens are all double digit favorites, meaning we’d need to see some major upsets for teams to do the Dolphins the favor they’d need in the event of a Miami loss. Cleveland is favored by 10. The Ravens by 14. The Colts by 14.5. But while the easy assumption is that the playoff contenders will stay “chalk”, don’t expect such a cut and dry affair. There’s no better example of that than last year’s Week 17 contest between a 12-3 New England Patriots and a 4-11 Miami Dolphins team. Remember, the Patriots, at home, were hosting a bad Dolphins team in need of a win to secure a first-round bye. The Dolphins won, 27-24 and knocked New England into a game in the Wild Card round. That Dolphins team was a 16-point underdog, making them even less likely to win than any of the three upsets today that would catapult the Dolphins into the postseason regardless of the outcome of their own game.
Miami, Cleveland and Baltimore all play at 1PM this afternoon. If all win, the Colts will enter their 4:25PM game knowing they’re already locked out of the postseason no matter what. If Miami loses and the Browns and Ravens win, expect a dramatic four hour stretch of watching the Colts wrestle with the Jaguars — and remember, the Jaguars won the first time these two teams played this season back in Week 1.
It’s going to be a dramatic day for Miami. Unless, of course, they take care of their business handily against the Bills. They’ll get their chance to set the tone in just a few hours.