What Dolphins’ Latest Win Means For Patriots In AFC Playoff Picture

Miami has won seven straight


December 28, 2021

If the season ended Tuesday, the AFC East would send three representatives to the 2021 NFL playoffs.

The Dolphins’ 20-3 victory over the COVID-depleted New Orleans Saints on Monday night pushed Miami into the third and final wild-card spot in the AFC.

Here’s a look at the updated AFC playoff standings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4; AFC West winner)
2. Tennessee Titans (10-5; AFC South leader)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6; AFC North leader)
4. Buffalo Bills (9-6; AFC East leader)
5. Indianapolis Colts (9-6; first wild card)
6. New England Patriots (9-6; second wild card)
7. Miami Dolphins (8-7; third wild card)

In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (8-7), Los Angeles Chargers (8-7), Las Vegas Raiders (8-7), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-1), Cleveland Browns (7-8), Denver Broncos (7-8)

And the current standings in the AFC East:

1. Bills (9-6)
2. Patriots (9-6)
3. Dolphins (8-7)
4. New York Jets (4-11)

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Chiefs are the only AFC team that has clinched a playoff spot. The Patriots can do so this weekend with a win over the 2-13 Jacksonville Jaguars coupled with a loss by either Miami (at Tennessee) or Las Vegas (at Indianapolis).

Had the Dolphins lost to the Ian Book-led Saints, the Patriots would have been able to lock down a spot with just a win over the lowly Jags.

New England also would guarantee itself a postseason berth by beating the Dolphins in Miami — traditionally a challenging venue for Patriots teams — in Week 18, regardless of the result of the Jacksonville game.

The Patriots, who are riding a two-game losing streak, still are alive for the AFC East title. But to claim it, they’d need Buffalo to lose at least one of its final two games. The Bills close out the season with easily winnable home matchups against the Atlanta Falcons and Jets.

Analytics site FiveThirtyEight gives the Patriots a 94% chance of making the playoffs but just a 10% chance of winning their division.

The Dolphins have been red-hot, ripping off seven consecutive victories after opening the season 1-7. They still have a shot at first place in the AFC East, too, but would need to win out — including a Week 18 victory over the Patriots — and have the Bills lose out.

Thumbnail photo via Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports Images
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