Week 17 NFL playoff picture: The AFC says hello to the Dolphins

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The Dolphins were 1-7 at one point this season and the discussion around the team had more to do with whether Brian Flores would return for a fourth season as their head coach than anything related to a playoff run.

It’s a very different discussion after Monday night’s 20-3 win over the Saints, however. The Dolphins are now in playoff position with two games to play and winning both of those games would put the team into the postseason for the first time since the 2016 season. Neither of those games are going to be easy as neither the Titans nor the Patriots fit the profile of the teams that the Dolphins have faced during their seven-game winning streak, but stacking that many wins together is never easy in the NFL and counting the Dolphins out twice probably isn’t wise.

This week also brings us new leaders in the AFC East and an AFC North with all four teams still alive despite three of them losing in Week 16. The entire AFC playoff picture is laid out below:

CLINCHED

1. Chiefs (11-4) They haven’t sewn up the No. 1 seed in the conference yet, but it’s hard to bet against the team riding the eight-game winning streak.

IN THE HUNT

2. Titans (10-5) Ending the Dolphins’ winning streak this weekend will make them the AFC South champions.

3. Bengals (9-6) Hosting the Chiefs isn’t the most favorable of matchups for a team trying to close out a division title.

4. Bills (9-6) After an emotional win over the Patriots, they should be on guard against any letdown with the Falcons coming to town.

5. Colts (9-6) Winning shorthanded in Arizona is the latest sign that the Colts are going to be a tough out come the postseason.

6. Patriots (9-6) Facing the Jaguars gives them a chance to get right after back-to-back punches to the gut.

7. Dolphins (8-7) The next two weeks provide the Dolphins a chance to prove their turnaround was more than just a product of the schedule.

8. Chargers (8-7) If they can’t climb back up the ladder, the stench from Sunday’s flop in Houston will linger for a long time.

9. Raiders (8-7) Two straight wins have left the neon lights on in Vegas, but they’ll need to win in Indianapolis to generate real belief that they can get a ticket to the dance.

10. Ravens (8-7) While they should have some players back for this weekend, a visit from the Rams offers no respite when it comes to the opposition.

11. Steelers (7-7-1) This weekend’s game against the Browns could be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last stand.

12. Browns (7-8) Cleveland got the help they needed after losing on Saturday and they’ll need that to continue while they win both games left on their schedule.

13. Broncos (7-8) They remain mathematically alive, but the focus in Denver is on Vic Fangio’s future rather than the postseason.

ELIMINATED

14. Jets (4-11) Beating the Jaguars won’t help their draft standing, but doing it with a depleted roster while missing their head coach made for the rare happy day at MetLife Stadium.

15. Texans (4-11) They played spoiler against the Chargers and can do so against the 49ers this weekend as well.

16. Jaguars (2-13) Back-to-back losses to the Jets and Texans leaves no doubt about where to find the bottom of the barrel in the AFC.

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