Can the Dolphins catch the Bills for the division?
So you’re saying there’s a chance? The Miami Dolphins are now just half a game behind the division-leading Buffalo Bills following Sunday’s hard-fought victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Miami has now won five in a row, good for the second-best streak in the conference behind only the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers’ nine. With the Bills on a bye this coming week and Miami going against the very beatable Broncos, we could be looking at a tie atop the AFC East.
Yet according to the latest football betting odds, the Dolphins are still longshots to win the division at just under 3-1 odds. Before their Week 10 victory, Miami was 9/2.
It all boils down to the remaining seven weeks.
Comparing the Dolphins’ and Bills’ remaining schedule
Miami will face the Broncos for this coming Week 11 while Buffalo will be resting. The Dolphins currently have a 6-3 record and the Bills are 7-3.
Here is how Miami and Buffalo’s remaining schedule compares with their opponent’s combined records (minus the Week 17 game where they face each other):
- Week 11: @ Broncos (3-6)
- Week 12: @ Jets (0-9)
- Week 13: Vs Bengals (2-6-1)
- Week 14: Vs Chiefs (8-1)
- Week 15: Vs Patriots (4-5)
- Week 16: @ Raiders (6-3)
- Combined record: 23-30-1 (.434)
- Games vs winning teams: two
- Week 11: BYE
- Week 12: Vs Chargers (2-7)
- Week 13: @ 49ers (4-6)
- Week 14: Vs Steelers (9-0)
- Week 15: @ Broncos (3-6)
- Week 16: @ Patriots (4-5)
- Combined record: 22-24 (.478)
- Games vs winning teams: one
The Dolphins’ road seems easier looking at the cumulative record, but they will be facing an extra winning team. Buffalo’s opponents’ records are also boosted by the 9-0 Steelers.
Looking at how it lines up, the Bills and Dolphins face similar-themed opponents per week.
In Week 12, the Dolphins have seemingly a “gimme” when they visit the winless Jets while the Bills host the ice-cold Chargers whose only road win came in Week 1 against the Bengals.
Week 14 will feature the toughest test for both teams. The Dolphins host the Super Bowl champions, the Chiefs while the Bills host the unbeaten Steelers. These are pivotal games for both teams as a win from either could be the tiebreaker.
Former division boss, the Patriots, will also play a crucial role in deciding which of the two finishes on top. They visit the Dolphins in Week 15 then host the Bills the following week, Week 16.
New England just beat the Ravens proving that they shouldn’t be counted out ever. They defeated Miami in Week 1 and almost beat the Bills in Week 8. Bill Bellichick’s squad would love to play the spoiler for either team. And if they manage to beat both, they might even make it a three-way race.
Week 17: for all the marbles
But it may all just come down to the final week of the season if we run the simulation:
- Week 11: @ Broncos W (7-3)
- Week 12: @ Jets W (8-3)
- Week 13: Vs Bengals W (9-3)
- Week 14: Vs Chiefs L (9-4)
- Week 15: Vs Patriots W (10-4)
- Week 16: @ Raiders L (10-5)
- Dolphins’ record: 4-2
- Week 11: BYE
- Week 12: Vs Chargers W (8-3)
- Week 13: @ 49ers W (9-3)
- Week 14: Vs Steelers L (9-4)
- Week 15: @ Broncos W (10-4)
- Week 16: @ Patriots L (10-5)
- Bills’ record: 3-2
In this scenario, the Bills and Dolphins tie at 10-5 and head into Week 17 with a winner-take-all scenario.
But in the event, the Bills win one game more or the Dolphins win one game less, Miami will have to beat the Bills to tie them for the division crown. Then it goes to the NFL tie-breaking rules:
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs)
Edge: Bills. Buffalo defeated Miami earlier in the year. If they beat the Dolphins on Week 17, they will win this tiebreaker. If Miami wins, it will go to the second tie-breaker:
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division
Edge: Bills. Currently, the Bills have a significant edge here with a 4-0 record while the Dolphins are 1-2. Adding the simulation results above, the Bills will have a 4-1 record while the Dolphins will have a 3-2 record. If Miami wins Week 17, their division records will tie at 4-2 apiece heading to the third tiebreaker:
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games
Edge: Bills. As of Week 11, the Bills have a lead here with a 6-3 record while the Dolphins have a 5-3 record. Adding the simulated games, Buffalo will be 9-4 while Miami will be 8-5. If the Dolphins win Week 17, the records once again tie at 9-5 apiece. On to the fourth tiebreaker:
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference
Edge: Bills. Again, Buffalo leads here with a 5-2 record while Miami is 3-2. Adding the simulation results, it will tie at 7-4, ultimately leading to a winner-take-all scenario in Week 17. If Miami wins, they win the division.
Bottom line: Miami needs to keep pace with Buffalo and hope the Bills start losing more down the road.
On the plus side, even if Miami does not win the division, they should get into the playoffs via the Wild Card. So long as the Dolphins keep winning, they’re in!
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