AFC playoff picture: Division, conference records helping Miami


With their 16-13 win at the Jets Monday night, the Dolphins joined five other clubs tied at 7-5. And if the playoffs started now, they would be the No. 6 seed, leaving the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens, Steelers and Browns out in the cold.

So how did the Dolphins pull that off?

Oddly enough, their season-opening win vs. the Patriots nearly three months ago is a big part of the answer.

The Dolphins’ victory over New England was a divisional triumph, one of three in four tries for Miami thus far. And that 3-1 AFC East record is superior to Buffalo’s 3-2 division mark, which thus places the Dolphins ahead of the Bills in the playoff-seeding pecking order, per the NFL’s tiebreaking rules. The first two-team divisional tiebreaker — head-to-head record — is rendered moot because Miami and Buffalo split a pair of games earlier this season.

Division record is the next tiebreaker. And the Bills come up just short, with losses at Miami and vs. New England giving the Dolphins the half-game edge.

This leaves the Dolphins as the top-rated 7-5 club in the AFC East.

Now, the tiebreaking formula must be applied once again, with Miami, Kansas City and Baltimore (the top-rated 7-5 AFC North club) to be sorted out. Once again, the head-to-head tiebreaker doesn’t hold, as none of the three clubs has swept the others.

The next tiebreaker is AFC record. And here, Miami wins again. The Dolphins are 6-3 in AFC play, one game better than the Chiefs (5-4) and 2.5 games better than the Ravens (3-5).

That’s how the Dolphins took the top wild-card spot through 12 games. Whether they can hold it, though, is anybody’s guess.

Here’s a closer look at the AFC’s current playoff seeding. The NFL’s standings and tiebreaking rules are essential reference materials.


1. New England Patriots (9-3, .750). AFC East leader. Earn first-round bye, home-field advantage. Hold head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.

2. Denver Broncos (9-3, .750). AFC West leader. Earn first-round bye.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1, .708). AFC North leader. Host Dolphins in wild-card game.

4. Indianapolis Colts (8-4, .667). AFC South leader. Host Chargers in wild-card game.

5. San Diego Chargers (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 1.

6. Miami Dolphins (7-5, .583). Wild card No. 2. Seeded ahead of Buffalo (also 7-5) on basis of superior division record (3-1 vs. 3-2 — second divisional tiebreaker). Seeded No. 6 in AFC on basis of superior conference record to Kansas City (5-4) and Baltimore (3-5) — the second three-team wild-card tiebreaker.


7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-5, .583). Seeded No. 7 on basis of superior AFC record (5-4) to Buffalo (4-5) and Baltimore (3-5) — the second three-team wild-card tiebreaker.

8. Buffalo Bills (7-5, .583).

9. Baltimore Ravens (7-5, .583). AFC North’s second-seeded team because of 2-1 mark in head-to-head games vs. Steelers and Browns (first divisional tiebreaker). This tops the Steelers’ 2-2 mark and the Browns’ 1-2 record.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, .583). AFC North’s third-seeded team because of superior record in common games to Browns (4-3 vs. 3-3 — third divisional tiebreaker).

11. Cleveland Browns (7-5, .583).

12. Houston Texans (6-6, .500).

29 responses to “AFC playoff picture: Division, conference records helping Miami

  1. This is one thing I will never understand. Doesn’t matter how many times or how many often u tell me about these playoffs and how they go.

    I am going to be the 1st to tell u all that these playoff rules are inaccurate and I will tell u why

    For the record the chiefs should be the 6th seed cuz of there head to head win vs the dolphins.

    I am not sitting here and saying that cuz I’m a chiefs fan I’m not going to agrue with anybody that says that I’m wrong. I am just stating how I feel about these playoffs. The NFL always find ways to screw teams and don’t never follow by there own rules. There was a lot of rules that went into effect this season and hardly are even happing . just shows u the NFL only cares about money. I say screw the refs and bring a 32 team playoff. NFC vs NFC teams and AFC vs AFC teams the last 2 teams standing from the NFC and AFC play in the super bowl for the title. It was would be something like the NCAA college basketball tournament. Winner take all

    My opinion

  2. This should get very interesting down he stretch. That wild card is up for grabs big time as well as the one seed. I assume it will be between Denver and New England. Denver has an easier schedule coming home, but the Pats control their own destiny as of now. It’ll be tough to get through New Enlgand this year if the road to the Bowl goes through them….

  3. It’s a wrap Steeler fans..we’d have to win out and go 11-5 with help from the Ratbirds.. dolphins..Bengals..and Chargers. Only way we get in is to win the North.

  4. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Chargers would travel to Indi, which is great, because I don’t even remember the last time the Chargers lost to the Colts. We are kind of their daddy.

    Sorry Indi, I love ya’, but we possess your soul.

  5. 4. Indianapolis Colts (8-4, .667). AFC South leader. Host Chargers in wild-card game.

    5. San Diego Chargers (8-4, .667). Wild card No. 1.
    I love how a team with the same record as the Chargers gets a home game despite being in the 2nd worst division in football, and the Chargers being in one of the best.

    Seems legit.

  6. Not over yet……….but it would really suck if the Dolphins get in over the Bills, because Buffalo has the way better team, in fact, it’s not that close. And I don’t even care they split………..Bills roster is better from top to bottom………only position Dolphins might be better is at QB, and that’s pretty close as well. Bills Def is the best in the NFL.

  7. Plenty can change, there are still a lot of divisional games left. I think both the AFC North and AFC East will go down to the final week. Those games will be a thrilling backstop to Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan fighting over the freight elevator key while trying to clean out their offices.

  8. Bal is only ahead of Steelers because Cle, Bal and Pit all have same record right now, which Ravens own the 3-way tiebreaker. But as soon as Cle does not have the same record as Bal/Pit (which won’t be long now with Manziel), Pit owns the tiebreaker over Bal because of better div record, which is the first tiebreaker for two teams. And because Bal plays Cleveand, if Bal and Pit both win out, Steelers are in. Which no other team in the NFL wants to see happen.

    You’re welcome.

  9. Dolphins must beat Baltimore, Minnesota and Jets again to make the playoffs.

    When comparing Miami’s schedule to the other contenders, Miami seems like they have the inside track.

    However, they play like they did last night and it will be Jim Mora again “Playoffs? We talking about Playoffs?”

  10. joetoronto says:Dec 2, 2014 4:09 AM

    The Bills weren’t going to make it anyway.
    One thing we do know for sure………your Raiders are not, and never will.

  11. I love how a team with the same record as the Chargers gets a home game despite being in the 2nd worst division in football, and the Chargers being in one of the best.

    Seems legit.

    How soon they forget. Take a look at the 8-8 Chargers HOSTING 12-4 INDY a few years ago. Can’t have it both ways.

  12. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the ravens and steelers are tied in the last week and the browns are 1 game back… If certain things happen and Baltimore and Pittsburgh are fighting for that 6th seed, the ravens play the browns in week 17… Wouldn’t it be crazy if they purposefully tanked or actually FORFEITED the game in order to create that 3 way tie and get in!!? Does this make sense it is this even possible? I realize a lot of other things have to happen but not sure if this would be possible mathematically but interesting to think about nonetheless.

  13. Nevermind I just saw the flaw in that. Head to head games between them would be a tie. Lol didn’t think that one through. But can anyone tell me what is the third tiebreaker rule if division record and head to head games are tied?

  14. @highlogic,

    To break a tie in a division, the tiebreaker after head-to-head and division record is the common games record.

    Every division features 14 common games.

    For non-division teams, common games is used at some point, too, but you need to have a minimum of 4 common games for it to count.

  15. I’m surprised the circumstance has never occurred in the history of the nfl where a team would actually be better off losing a game or 2 in order to benefit the team by getting in the playoffs or to win a division.

  16. Considering the dolphins weren’t mentioned last week and now they are in this week it makes me happy. Thank-you for not taking about how they can easily win the afc east.

  17. How to make the playoffs

    Win your division unless you have a first ballot no-brainer HoF NFL QB in your division. There are only four currently in the NFL, sorry Eli, Big Ben, Rivers none of you are in that category.

    Are you in the NFC south? If so just show up to half your games to win your division…ok 7 wins will do it…possibly 6

    Anyone else, win 11 games and you get in 9 out of 10 times (Denver and New England are the only two teams to go 11-5 and not make it in a 16 game schedule)

    Are you 10-6? maybe you should have won that one game you were favored heavily in but got your butt kicked in.

    Are you 9-7? Really? 9-7 and you think you should make the NFL playoffs with a record of one game over .500?

    8-8 …get a clue

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