The Real Playoff Picture

Coach Tony Sparano

Those who watched Indianapolis beat Jacksonville Thursday night on the NFL Network were treated to an exciting football game. They also were treated to a lot of misinformation when it comes to the AFC playoff picture, in particular as to how it relates to the Dolphins.

With a graphic showing the current playoff positions, with the four leaders and current wild-card leaders Denver and Jacksonville, NFL Network play-by-play man Bob Papa repeated several times throughout the broadcast that the Jaguars controlled their own destiny and were assured a playoff berth with victories in their last three games.

Wrong.

The Jaguars never controlled their own destiny, and here's why. The Dolphins owned the head-to-head tiebreaker over Jacksonville by virtue of their 14-10 victory last Sunday.

The only reason the Dolphins didn't hold the last playoff spot heading into this week's games is because Baltimore and the Jets also were at 7-6.

Because of that, the head-to-head tiebreaker didn't apply and Jacksonville currently was sixth by virtue of their conference record. But the Jaguars could have won their last three, finished at 10-6 and been out with one Baltimore loss and the Dolphins also finishing at 10-6.

The Jets are not a factor in any Dolphins playoff scenario because the Dolphins swept them and the first order of business in settling wild-card tiebreaker is to apply division tiebreakers first.

If the Dolphins finish tied with Baltimore at 10-6, the Ravens would get in by virtue of a better record (3-2 against 2-3) in common games.

If the Dolphins finish 10-6 and wind up tied with Denver, the Dolphins would get the tiebreaker if the Broncos' loss in their last three games is against either Kansas City or Oakland. If Denver beats the Raiders and Chiefs and lose to Philadelphia, then a Denver-Miami tiebreaker would come down to strength of victory.

Of course, all of this assumes the fact the Dolphins win out.

The truth is things very well could sort themselves out by the time the regular season is over, but just keep in mind that the Dolphins win any tiebreaker with the Jets, they win any head-to-head tiebreaker with Jacksonville but they lose out to Baltimore if both teams end up 10-6.

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