ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- From Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase down to his players, the P-word has been avoided the past few weeks.
But in the locker room after Saturday's thrilling, 34-31 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills, which was Miami's ninth win in 10 games, several players finally said that this group at least looks and feels like a playoff team.
"Oh, for sure," Dolphins safety and captain Michael Thomas said of whether Miami is playoff-caliber. "I just love how relentless our team is. Everybody got each other's back, and everybody is fighting.
"One guy goes down, and the next man tries to step up. That was key. It wasn't just one guy making all the plays. Everybody contributed."
Dolphins rookie running back Kenyan Drake won a national championship in college at Alabama. That was the closest comparison he could draw to this year's Dolphins.
"I've personally never been a part of this kind of football at this level, so this is new to me," Drake said. "But if this is not a playoff atmosphere [in the NFL], this is damn near close to it."
The Dolphins aren't officially in the postseason, but they are close. Miami (10-5) can clinch its first playoff berth since 2008 on Christmas Day with a loss by the Denver Broncos (8-6), who play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
Even if the Broncos win, the Dolphins would control their playoff situation with a win over the New England Patriots or a loss by the Broncos in Week 17, in addition to other scenarios that favor Miami.
According to the Football Power Index, the Dolphins have a 91.5 percent chance of making the postseason. In other words, Miami has positioned itself to where it will be very hard to blow it.
Week after week, the Dolphins have shown characteristics of a team built for January football.
Playoff teams get hot down the stretch. The Dolphins have won nine of their past 10 games and are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They don't get nearly the same credit as other hot teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Patriots and Green Bay Packers, but Miami's streak is comparable to that of the aforementioned teams.
Playoff teams find ways to win. The Dolphins have won via defensive stops, big special-teams returns and hot finishes by the offense, depending on the week. On Saturday they needed a 55-yard field goal -- the longest of the season -- by second-year kicker Andrew Franks to force overtime and another game winner in the extra period. The Dolphins have more than one blueprint for winning -- and that makes them dangerous.
Playoff teams run the football. And when Miami's running game gets hot, it really gets going. Tailback Jay Ajayi became the fourth player in NFL history to post three 200-yard rushing games in one season. Ajayi rushed for 206 yards against the Bills and has more 200-yard games (three) than 100-yard games (one) in 2016.
The Dolphins also have found ways to overcome injuries. They don't make excuses and probably don't get enough credit for the way they've overcome important and significant ailments to quarterback Ryan Tannehill (knee), center Mike Pouncey (hip) and safety Reshad Jones (shoulder).
"This is a true team," said Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, who had 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on Saturday. "I think everybody in that locker room will agree."
The bigger question is whether they are a true playoff team. The product on the field says yes. But they need just a little help from the Chiefs on Sunday to make it official.