Power Rankings: Miami Dolphins No. 21

A weekly examination of the Dolphins' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 20 | Last Week: 17 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

It’s been a roller-coaster year for the inconsistent Miami Dolphins (5-6). Last week, the Dolphins jumped five spots to No. 17 after a quality win over the San Diego Chargers. But Miami fell four spots to No. 21 Tuesday after a tough 20-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The Dolphins have been all over the place this season. Since their 3-0 start, Miami is 2-6 in its past eight games. The Dolphins have quality wins over likely playoff teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts. But Miami also has ugly losses to the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they are still alive in the AFC wild-card race. They are one of a half-dozen teams with five wins entering December. Whoever gets hot in the final month and gets to 9-7 most likely will grab the final wild-card spot.

The Dolphins have a huge road game against the New York Jets (5-6) in what is essentially an elimination game. The winner will stay alive in the wild-card race, while the loser will fall behind.