In Saturday’s second Wild Card match-up, we get a to watch (only if you have Peacock…?) the Miami Dolphins AT the Kansas City Chiefs. The AT part is important because Saturday night in Kansas City is supposed to be somewhere around FIVE DEGREES! That’s cold enough to freeze your Swifties right off, and it’s certainly no place for a Dolphin to be! Miami traveled to KC earlier this season in the beginning of November, where they lost 21-14. The Chiefs got out to a fast start, leading 21-0 by halftime, as the Dolphins floundered throughout the game on third and fourth downs converting at only 23% (3/13). If KC wins, they are likely headed to Buffalo. If Miami wins, they are likely headed to Baltimore. Let’s take a downfield read and make some predictions!
Miami Dolphins (11-6):
Miami comes limping into this game, literally and figuratively, having lost two in a row, three of their last five, and also losing the #2 seed in the playoffs just last week to the Buffalo Bills. Running Back, Raheem Mostert, Wide Receiver, Jaylen Waddle and Safties DeShon Elliott and Jevon Holland are ALL listed as Questionable to play. Meanwhile, Linebackers Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkel, along with starting Cornerback Xavien Howard, are all OUT for this game. Chubb led the ‘Phins with 11 sacks this year, and Van Ginkel was fourth with six sacks. Linebacker Jaelan Phillips is third on the list with 6.5 but he went down with a torn achilles at the end of November. Getting pressure on Patrick Mahomes is going to be difficult this time around, and if they don’t quickly, Mahomes may pick them apart.
Tua Tagovailoa led the NFL with 4,624 passing yards this season while completing 69.3% of his passes (5th) for an 8.3 yard average (4th), 29 touchdowns (tied for fifth with Josh Allen) and a Passer Rating of 101.1 (6th). Tua took only 29 sacks (tied for 23rd with Justin Herbert) but threw 14 interceptions which is tied for the fourth most with Trevor Lawrence and…Mahomes. Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane are the one-two punch RBs in the backfield. They finished 10th and 26th respectively in rushing yards, with Mostert finishing first in rushing touchdowns (18) and Achane finishing first in rushing yard per carry (7.8) for RBs that played in more than eight games.
The Dolphins also have a one-two punch at receivers with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Hill is arguably the best wide receiver in the game. He finished the season first in receiving yards (1,799), tied for first with Mike Evans in touchdown receptions (13), tied for second with Amon Ra St. Brown in overall receptions (119), and fourth for yards after the catch (652). Waddle was no slouch either, finishing with 72 receptions (tied for 36th with Amari Cooper), 1,014 receiving yards (tied at 26th with Adam Thielen), and 29th for yards after the catch. Waddle only had four receiving TDs on the year, but he also played in only 14 games due to injuries. As a whole, this offense is one of (if not THE) best in the NFL. The Dolphins are first in yards per game, and passing yards per game, second in points scored per game, and sixth in rushing yards per game.
On defense, the Dolphins are above average, but as I mentioned before, they are literally hurting with injuries down the stretch. Overall, Miami finished third in the NFL with 56 sacks, but now they don’t even have three of their top four “sack masters”. The Dolphins are seventh in rushing yards allowed per game, 10th in overall yards allowed per game, 15th in passing yards allowed per game and in interceptions, but 22nd in points allowed per game. Why are they giving up so many points? Untimely turnovers. Miami is a +2 in the turnover department, with 25 total turnovers (T11).
Kansas City Chiefs (11-6)
The Chiefs seem to have more mojo coming into this game. The only player that may not play for them is Kadarius Toney, which I don’t think anyone would miss. Toney already has a hard time catching passes, and the cold weather that’s projected won’t help his stone hands bring down any balls. The Chiefs have won their last two (throw-away games vs the Bengals and Chargers), and three of their last five. KC has also beaten the Dolphins 21-14 on November 5th, and THAT was when the weather wasn’t in the single digits.
Don’t kid yourself; Patrick Mahomes is still Patrick Mahomes in every sense. Remember last year when he was winning playoff games and a Super Bowl on a banged-up ankle? His individual number may not be MVP-worthy, but they aren’t bad either. Mahomes finished sixth in passing yards (4,183), seventh in QBR (62.9), eighth in passing TDs (27), and ninth in completion percentage (67.2%). As mentioned before, Mahomes is tied with Tua and Trevor for the 4th most picks this season, which seems to be his only blemish. Running back Isiah Pacheco is the main back in KC rushing for 935 yards (18) for 4.6 yards per carry, 66.8 yards per game (11), and seven touchdowns, which is tied with James Connor and Jonathan Taylor at 16th.
Now we come to the weak point in the Chiefs offense. KC’s best receiver is Tight End, Travis Kelce. He leads the team with 93 receptions, which is 16th overall in the NFL and 2nd for TEs behind T.J. Hockenson. Kelce also leads KC with 984 receiving yards, which is good for 32nd overall and 2nd by TE’s behind George Kittle. Travis also has five TDs and 469 yards after the catch (22). After that it’s Rashee Rice and a bunch of “C” WRs with Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, Mecole Hardman Jr, Marquez Valdes-Scantling… Rice has 79 receptions (T24 with Mike Evans, Tyler Lockett, and Terry McLaurin) for 938 yards (32), seven touchdowns (T18), and 654 yards after the catch (3). Somehow the Chiefs offense ranks sixth in the NFL for passing yards per game (246.5), 19th in rushing yards per game (105), and ninth in total yards per game (351). They’re also only 15th in average points per game at 21.8, which they are going to have to get to at a minimum if they want to secure the win.
Kansas City is actually more of a defensive team this season. Defensive Tackle, Chris Jones, and Defensive End, George Karlaftis are leading the team with 10.5 sacks (T17) each, followed by DE’s Charles Omenihu and Mike Danna who have seven and 6.5 sacks respectively. Cornerback, L’Jarius Sneed is leading the team with 14 passes defended, and just two interceptions, which is something the Chiefs are lacking in. They have only eight interceptions as a team on the season which is third worst in the league. They also have only nine fumble recoveries, for a total of 17 takeaways, which is tied for the fifth worst with the Arizona Cardinals. Kansas City has a -11 turnover differential this season, which could end up being their demise.
You need take into consideration that fact that Kansas City already beat Miami at home once this season. You also need take into consideration that the Dolphins can’t seem to beat teams with winning records. The Dolphins are 11-6 and had the fourth EASIEST schedule in the NFL. Miami is also built on speed. Not the drug…but very fast players (Hill, Mostert, Waddle, Achane, Tua, etc.). What happens to speed when it’s zero degrees outside? It slows down, right? KC’s offense ISN’T dynamic, but with the injuries sustained by the Dolphins, their defense is below average. Miami’s offense IS something special, and in a “regular” game when ice cycles won’t be forming on their noses, they might be able to burn up this KC secondary. As much as I could see Miami putting on an offensive spectacle, they didn’t do it before, so why would it show up now at an arctic Arrowhead Staduim? I think this is going to be a race to 21 points. IF the Chiefs can hang onto the ball, this is their game to lose. Chiefs over the Dolphins, 20-17.