Tonight’s game, on the surface, looks to be a chance for either the Bills or Dolphins to stay in the playoff chase. And while that’s technically true, it’s also unfortunately true for these two that neither of them is likely to make the playoffs. The problem is that the AFC has too many teams in the running, there are some clearly better teams, and other decent teams have the same record. As things stand, the Pats, Broncos, and Colts are all very likely to win their divisions and are also actually good teams. That’s three of the six right there. Another team is guaranteed to come from the AFC North in the form of the division winner. So Miami and Buffalo, barring a New England collapse, are relegated to the wild card. This is doubly true since each still has a game to play in New England. The next issue is that there is a smorgasbord of potential wild cards teams. The winner of tonight’s game will be 6-4; other teams in that neighborhood include the loser (at 5-5), the non-division winners of the AFC North (currently either 6-4, 5-3-1, or 6-3), the Chiefs, and the Chargers. Both the Dolphins and Bills have to play a game in Denver still. It’s an ugly road ahead.
But as far as tonight goes, the Dolphins have the edge. They’re at home and are likely the better team. They certainly have the better defense, as most people have been touting either Miami or the Lions. The Dolphins also have a tenth of yard advantage in offensive yard per play. The line was around Miami -5, which the models all thought was essentially right, but appears to have dropped to -4. So they are all leaning towards a Dolphins cover.
You can see that the power rankings generally back up the statements above. Denver, New England, and Indianapolis lead the way, and in the AFC you still have Baltimore, KC, San Diego, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh ahead of Miami. In the NFC, the cream of the crop appears to be the Eagles and Packers. Seattle and New Orleans make up two of the next three despite their iffy records, with the Cowboys in between. Then you finally have the current two bye-week teams in Arizona and Detroit, in what is essentially a tie. Detroit could potentially make a run (statistical, I guess, as opposed to record-wise since that’s already fine) with the return of Megatron. As everyone else is saying, we’ll have to see if Philly and Arizona can keep up without their starting QBs, but the Eagles at least looked fine last week with Sanchez. Of course, the Packers will be a stiffer test than the Panthers. Looks like there should be some good games this weekend, and hopefully tonight.