The Miami Dolphins Should Not Have Made the Playoffs

With a 1-4 start to the season, the Miami Dolphins should not be in the playoffs, but they are after an impressive midseason turn around.

According to FiveThirtyEight, only 6% of NFL teams to start 1-4 since 1995 have made the playoffs. To put it in other words, only about 1 out of 20 teams in that situation made the playoffs.

After Week 5, our algorithm listed the Miami Dolphins (then 1-4) with even a lower chance to reach the playoffs: just 1.8%.

Somehow, they beat the odds, and behind Jay Ajayi, whose first 200-yard rushing outburst came in Week 6, the Dolphins are now in the playoffs as the 6 seed in the AFC with a 10-6 record.

Not a Steady Climb

Making the playoffs after Week 5 was highly unexpected, as the team's playoff probability graph shows that the Dolphins did not have a shot at the playoffs above 50% until Week 15.

The difference from Week 5 in the Dolphins playoff probability graph to Week 17 is, of course, drastic.

And it's not as if the team was playing well but couldn't secure wins, either.

Based on our nERD metric, which indicates how many points a team should be expected to win by (or lose by) against an average team on a neutral field, the team is ranked 24th, according to our power rankings, last among the playoff teams.

Simply put, Ajayi alone could not carry the team even though he had more than 1,000 rushing yards, leading the Dolphins to the fourth-best rushing offense based on Adjusted Rushing NEP.

The Dolphins rode a 9-2 finish to the season in order to make the playoffs in shocking fashion. Even though they reached the postseason, the Dolphins' constantly below average nERD score shows that they should not be a playoff team.

Our algorithm sees them with a 33.7% win probability against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 10-point favorites, in wild card weekend.