Explaining The Dolphins, Chiefs Flip In The Standings


If you heard a loud ‘WTF?!’ this morning around Kansas City, don’t be alarmed. It’s just some mass confusion about the reason why the Chiefs are now sitting out of the playoffs after the Miami Dolphins win over the New York Jets last night.

Here’s an example.

Wonderful question.

Miami jumped the Chiefs for the second wild card spot but this does not mean the Chiefs do not control their own destiny. After the Dolphins win, their record in AFC games improved to 6-3, one game better than the Chiefs’ 5-4 record. Why does that matter more than the Chiefs’ head-to-head win over the Dolphins? The answer is simple:


At the moment there are six teams tied for the final wild card spot with a  7-5 record. A six-way tie means the tie-breakers get pretty complicated. Here’s the most relevant information.

First, division tie-breakers are the first wave of sorting out the mess. At the moment three teams are tied at 7-5 in the AFC North, with the Baltimore Ravens winning the race between themselves and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. This eliminates the Steelers and Browns from moving on to the next wave of tie-breakers.

Second, the Dolphins are tied with the Buffalo Bills at 7-5 in the AFC East. Miami holds the tie-breaker with them because the Dolphins have a better division record than the Bills. This eliminates Buffalo.

This leaves three teams left at 7-5.

Because the three teams have not all played each other, head-to-head matchups are thrown out the window. Instead the tie-breaker becomes who has the best AFC record. This is how that stands as of this morning:

Miami: 6-3

Kansas City: 5-4

Baltimore: 3-5

This is why Miami is ranked ahead of the Chiefs in the standings as of this moment.

Here’s the crazy thing though – if the Chiefs and Dolphins BOTH win on Sunday the Chiefs could still jump the Dolphins in the standings.

Miami plays the Ravens on Sunday, a game between two 7-5 teams. A Dolphins win over the Ravens would obviously give Baltimore their sixth loss of the season. Should Pittsburgh lose at the Cincinnati Bengals and the Browns lose to the Indianapolis Colts, it would mean only the Chiefs and Dolphins would be in a two-way tie and not a three-way tie (remember, Miami holds the advantage of the 7-5 Bills in the division).

The result would be that Kansas City would jump the Dolphins because in a two-way tie the Chiefs would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker, a tie-breaker that comes back into play when only two teams are tied.

Follow all of that?

Simply put, the Chiefs control their own destiny because the AFC North is eventually going to sort itself out because there are still divisional games remaining. KC holds the head-to-head wins over both the Bills and Dolphins, so as long as they stay tied with them and the AFC North teams beat each other up (KC still plays the Steelers, by the way) then the Chiefs should be okay.

Oh, and don’t forget, the San Diego Chargers – a team with an 8-4 record at the moment – still have to play at home to the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, and then on the road to the San Francisco 49ers and Chiefs. There’s plenty of time for them to relinquish their wild card spot, too.

Of course, none of that matters if the Chiefs don’t right the ship soon and get back to their winning ways. So, you know, start winning again, please.