Analytics Say Dolphins' Chances of Making the Playoffs Are Dwindling

The Dolphins are on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture. That's what a humiliating 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens did to a team clinging to postseason hopes. Now, Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals is as close to a must-win as you're going to see in the regular season; a win keeps the Dolphins in the hunt, while a loss puts the team in an almost impossible position when it comes to sneaking into the playoffs this season. It's possible the next time the Dolphins lose, they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

That's not hyperbole — it's basic math.

According to Football Outsiders, as of today the Dolphins have about a 32 percent chance of making the playoffs. That number is mostly made up of what Football Outsiders says is a 29.5 percent chance of the Dolphins capturing a wild-card slot. That number is down quite a bit after the ass-kicking the Ravens handed the Dolphins.

If the Dolphins do reach the playoffs, their chances of making it all the way to Houston, Texas, for Super Bowl LI are quite minuscule — a mere .7 percent. Yes, that's  point seven percent, not seven percent — insert Dumb and Dumber "so you're saying there's a chance" joke here. Football Outsiders gives the Dolphins a .2 percent chance of facing the Giants in the Super Bowl and a .1 percent chance of an all-Florida Super Bowl matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The website FiveThirtyEight gives the Dolphins an even less favorable chance of making the playoffs, pegging their odds of clinching the sixth seed at just 15 percent. Contributing to those slight odds is the fact that their calculations give the Dolphins just a 1 percent chance to catch New England in the AFC East. As far as the likelihood of a Super Bowl appearance goes? The Dolphins barely register on the FiveThirtyEight scale.

This handy graph posted by reddit user Soil_Geek might bring some positivity to the situation, though. The Probability of NFL Teams Making Playoffs chart posted on the thread shows what teams' percentages of making the playoffs are as the season progresses according to actual outcomes between 1990 and 2013.

According to past results, if the Dolphins were to lose on Sunday, they would have a 56 percent chance of making the playoffs based on teams that were 7-6 at this point in the year. If the Dolphins win and improve to 8-5, their chances of making the playoffs jumps to 70 percent.

Long story short? The Dolphins' odds of making the playoffs took a big hit last week, but a win against the Cardinals Sunday would keep the odds ever in their favor.

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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi