Miami Dolphins: A guide of who to root for in Week 17's NFL playoff push

Jonathan Tully
Palm Beach Post
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Whether Miami wins or loses Sunday, the Dolphins' game in Buffalo will not be the only game fans will keep an eye on. 

Here's our handy guide to rooting for the best possible path for the Dolphins' postseason.

You could take your time poring over a list like this one:

Or you could save brain cells and follow along with us.

Who should you root for, in order of preference:

Above all: Miami Dolphins (duh)

Ahead of anything else, one thing remains clear: If the Dolphins win, they're in. 

Not only do they control their own destiny, but the Dolphins would also be the No. 5 seed as the top wild-card team if they win. They win tiebreakers with the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts thanks to a better record against AFC teams; the Cleveland Browns would lose a tiebreaker against the Ravens, since the Ravens swept the season series.

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Obviously, making the playoffs is key, and few fans likely care who the Dolphins would play. But why not get the best opponent you can?

First, let's keep it positive. 

If the Dolphins win: Tennessee Titans

Whoever wins the AFC South will be the No. 4 seed, and if the Dolphins win, the champion would be Miami's opponent. The Dolphins would have the No. 5 seed if they win, hands down. 

Question is: Would you want to play the Tennessee Titans and Derrick Henry? Or the Colts and their running attack — which has no Derrick Henry?

Initially, you may think in this case, fans want the Titans to lose to the Texans, and the Colts to down the Jags.

But there's a wrinkle!

If the Titans beat the Texans, the Dolphins' first first-round draft pick -- which they got in the Laremy Tunsil trade in 2019 -- would end up being the No. 3 selection.

And that might well mean Oregon tackle Penei Sewell ends up in Miami's lap. For those who don't know, Sewell is considered one of the best offensive line prospects in years, and a perfect candidate to block for one Tua Tagovailoa. 

So the Dolphins fans may want to play the long game, and be willing to take on King Henry in the postseason in 2021 for a shot at a great player for years to come.

But, again, the Dolphins are playing Buffalo in wintertime. ...

So if the Dolphins lose, and you have to scoreboard-watch to see if Miami can back into a playoff spot, here's who would be the best teams to root for from there.

If the Dolphins lose: Pittsburgh Steelers

If they do lose — and playing in Buffalo in the winter is not easy for the Dolphins, as they are 5-10 all-time in Buffalo in December and January — their path becomes a lot tougher.

More:Winds aren't blowing in Miami Dolphins' favor should they need scoreboard help Sunday

Miami would need either the Ravens, Browns or Colts to lose. And, despite Ben Roethlisberger sitting, the Dolphins' best friends may be the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The Browns are favored by 10 in Sunday's game in Cleveland, but this is the Steelers, and as in most rivalries, anything can happen. Even with — and likely, because, Mason Rudolph is starting. Remember Rudolph? Or more likely, remember Mason Rudolph's helmet? And Myles Garrett?

If the Browns do beat the Steelers, pickings get a lot slimmer. As Hal Habib writes in his story on the other three games Sunday, "It’s no secret Baltimore gets tough as the conditions get tougher." And the Ravens are playing a Bengals team without Joe Burrow. 

If the Browns and Ravens win, the Dolphins' last hope is the Colts. And they've got the team that has nailed down the NFL's top draft choice already in Jacksonville. 

If the Dolphins lose, really: Any of Steelers, Jags or Bengals

Initially, we thought -- what would be the best matchup if the Dolphins lost but made it? The Dolphins would end up with a lower seed, and would get either Pittsburgh or Buffalo.

While it's bad to have to play the Bills in Buffalo in January in consecutive weeks, or play a tough Pittsburgh team, what really matters is that the Dolphins are in the postseason.

So, in the end, the real best opponent for the first round is, frankly, anyone. As long as someone among the Ravens, Colts or Browns lose on Sunday, the Dolphins are still in.

(By the way, in the incredibly unlikely event that all four teams lose, please see above under "if Miami wins," because the Dolphins go right back to being the No. 5 seed.)

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