AP Photo/Miami Dolphins.com
Earlier this week, the NFL implemented a new playoff format. Instead of six teams, now seven teams will make the playoffs from each conference.
With the change, a number of teams have seen their playoff chances increase significantly. One of them may be the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 and have just two playoff appearances in 18 years. This coming season will mark the 20th anniversary of Miami’s last playoff win.
Up until 1990, the NFL had just five teams from each conference make the playoffs. That’s when the switch was made to six.
Since the change, Miami has made the playoffs nine times. The recent changes however, led one to wonder how many more playoff appearances the Dolphins would have under a 7-team format since then. Below is a look at the seasons where the Dolphins would have qualified for the playoffs with recent changes in place.
The Miami Dolphins finished tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC at 8-8 in 1991. Miami ultimately lost the tiebreaker to the New York Jets as a result of two head-to-head losses. The Jets clinched the last spot in the AFC with a 23-20 overtime win over the Dolphins during the final week of the regular season.
Under the new format, the heartbreaking loss at Joe Robbie Stadium would have affected only seeding. Football fans would have gotten a John Elway vs. Dan Marino match-up in the Wild Card round. The Dolphins would have traveled to Mile High Stadium to take on the AFC West champion Denver Broncos. Denver finished 12-4 in 1991, ultimately falling to the Buffalo Bills for the AFC Championship.
The 1993 season was a tough one for Miami. Despite losing quarterback Dan Marino early in the season, the Dolphins once had the best record in the NFL at 9-2. Miami lost its final five games to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. The Dolphins’ playoff hopes were dealt the death blow with a 33-27 overtime loss to the New England Patriots on the final week of the regular season. Over the final five games, three of Miami’s losses were by six points or less.
During the 1993 season, four different Dolphins saw time at quarterback. Scott Mitchell would have likely been the starter in the Astrodome for a Divisional match-up against Warren Moon and the explosive Houston Oilers. The Oilers wound up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional playoffs.
Despite finishing 10-6, the Miami Dolphins were already eliminated from playoff contention when they took the field against the New York Jets during the final week of the regular season. Under the new format, the Dolphins would have made the postseason with relative ease. In actuality, the Denver Broncos, who also finished 10-6, claimed the final spot by having a better conference record than Miami.
Had seven AFC teams made the playoffs in 2003, the Dolphins would have traveled to face the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC Wild Card game. The Dolphins are 3-0 all-time against the Chiefs in the postseason. Kansas City wound up being defeated by the Indianapolis Colts in the Divisional round.