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Playoff Machine lets you unwrap the season

Whether you decorate a Christmas tree, light a menorah or frolic around a Festivus pole, we are bound by a common spirit in December.

"What if?" season is upon us.

As an early gift, ESPN.com offers to you the Playoff Machine.

No, you can't make mincemeat pie or a fruitcake with it. Nor does it dispense any of your traditional nogs. It doesn't slice, dice or julienne. And it definitely won't affix rhinestones to your jeans jacket.

The Playoff Machine is a pretty cool device that lets you project all the possible "What if?" scenarios for the rest of the season. You can figure out what any given team must do to reach the playoffs, secure home-field advantage or get the first overall draft choice.

You can simulate various playoff pictures by using a common denominator for the rest of the schedule. You can sort out the season by giving the advantage to the home team, the best win percentage, highest ESPN.com Power Ranking, top offense or top defense.

Or you can commit yourself to the process and mark each game manually, choosing winners and losers throughout the remaining five weeks.

To get an idea of how difficult it will be for the Miami Dolphins to make the playoffs, I sketched out a scenario where they win all of their remaining games to finish 11-5. I then sorted the rest of the league's results based on win percentage and Power Rankings.

The Dolphins still wouldn't earn a wild card in either breakdown.

But I did find a way the Dolphins can be the AFC's second seed, while the New York Jets don't make it at all.

A projected tournament bracket -- complete with seeds, opponents and game locations -- will update automatically with each click. There's also a handy link to the NFL's tiebreaking procedures.

While this is geared toward the playoff race, a complete breakdown of the standings is below the bracket. That lets you track the draft order and get an idea if the Buffalo Bills will have a shot at a blue-chip quarterback.

Season's greetings.