It’s almost playoff time in the NFL and the final wildcard spot in the AFC is up for grabs. Who’s in? Who’s way, way out? And is this really a three team race? Dan Salem and Todd Salem tackle this topic head on in this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate sports.
The top three teams in the AFC all lost this past week. Poor New England Patriots… haha, yeah right. Nevertheless, there remains just one open spot for the playoffs in the AFC: the sixth seed. With a handful of competitors still battling, it’s time to remove the pretenders.
Miami Dolphins, in or out?
The Dolphins are hard because they have undergone such drastic changes this season. They started off the year 3-0 to build everyone’s confidence. They then went on a four game losing streak. This was brought on by the locker room bullying scandal which resulted in, not only discourse throughout the team, but also the decimation of their offensive line. The losing streak was also not helped by the toughening of their schedule. Three of those four losses were to possible playoff teams.
From that point, the team rallied a bit and began to overcome the distractions. It started with a week nine win over Cincinnati. Miami won five of their next seven games, culminating with their win Sunday over New England. The offensive line is back to where it was before the Incognito and Martin removals occurred. And the team secured valuable, tiebreaker wins over San Diego and Pittsburgh during this stretch.
More importantly though is what’s coming up. The Dolphins have two games remaining: at 5-9 Buffalo and hosting 6-8 New York. Both are obviously divisional rivals, and the Jets game may hold playoff implications on both ends if things break right.
Having lost to Baltimore earlier in the year, Miami fails to hold the precious tiebreaker over the Ravens. They are also not quite as good as their record according to point differential, a great determining factor in team quality. Miami is just +14 on the season.
According to the Pythagorean Expectation (a mathematical formula based on point differential that gives you the expected winning percentage and win total of the team), Miami is playing a bit over its head. Their points for and against suggest a team that should have won 52.7% of its games, finishing the season with around eight wins. Instead, they are already at eight wins and have a winning percentage above 57%.
Miami’s other weakness is running the football. They rank in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards. Even in their latest win, over the Pats, Miami failed to eclipse 90 yards on the ground or reach 4.0 yards per carry for the day.
In the end, it seems the Dolphins have a good shot at the playoffs but I say they fall short. Buffalo is no pushover by any means and the season’s final game against New York will have Miami facing one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been very good this season, just not quite good enough.
Miami? I say OUT.
That was an easy one. San Diego Chargers, in or out?
Miami is definitely OUT, for all those numerical reasons you mentioned and because they are the Dolphins and will find a way to lose to both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. This leaves them at 8-8, exactly where your numbers placed them and on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
That leads us to the Chargers as our second contender for the final AFC playoff spot and they are in. In with a bang! Sorry Ravens, we’ll get to you next, but San Diego is stealing this playoff spot.
The Chargers are coming off a huge win versus Denver with everything to play for. They face the crappy Oakland Raiders followed by Kansas City in the final week. I fully expect the Chiefs to have nothing to play for in week 17, opting to rest their guys as is often the coaches choice. The Chargers will beat up the Raiders and squeak by a half staffed Chiefs squad finishing an impressive 9-7.
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think the Chargers were a playoff team, but in this crazy NFL season it seems they are in fact IN.
You know how I feel. Baltimore Ravens, in or out?