KANSAS CITY, MO – Well, after a rollercoaster season for the 11-6 Miami Dolphins, filled with both incredible highs and unbelievable lows, they now stand as the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. Their next challenge? Facing the Chiefs for a shot at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The issue is that this is not what many Dolphins fans were thinking. Just a few weeks ago this team had their eyes set on an AFC East title and hosting a playoff game at Hard Rock Stadium. But after losing three of their last five games of the season, including back-to-back losses against Baltimore and Buffalo (To clinch the Division), they find themselves having to be road warriors against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, with the odds not being in Miami’s favor.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) January 12, 2024
It’s one thing to be in the playoffs, but it’s another to make a statement and win a game. That hasn’t happened for a while with the Dolphins as their last win in the playoffs occurred in 2000 against Indianapolis. Since then, getting into the playoffs has been hard to come by.
Despite making the playoffs last year, Tua Tagovailoa had to sit the game out due to concussion symptoms and the Fins fell to Buffalo in the first round. Inconveniently, that was part of four straight losses to Buffalo, including last week’s loss to clinch the division for the Bills. Had Miami won that game, they would be hosting Buffalo this weekend.
Truth be told, there are a lot of things going against the Dolphins here, most of which were issues that Miami couldn’t control. But the path to the Super Bowl looks to be extremely difficult against a stacked conference, but the road to it starts tomorrow at 8 pm regardless.
I…Don’t Wish It Was Colder
If there was ever a reason why you would want to host a game at Hard Rock Stadium, it would be because you would know you’d be getting quality weather. Now Miami has to go to Kansas City in what could be one of the coldest games ever played.
The forecasts keep changing every day, but the consistent thing is that it’s going to be dangerously cold. At the time of this article being made, the expected temperature is -1 degrees with a wind chill of -23. The National Weather Service has advised fans who attend the game to wear heavy clothing all over, especially the face region. Any exposed area of the skin could be susceptible to frostbite within half an hour. At least there’s no snow projected for this weekend.
There’s a reason why tickets to this game are going for cheap.
BREAKING: The wind chill in KC Saturday night will be “dangerously cold,” per the National Weather Service.
It is expected to be a wind chill of NEGATIVE 30 DEGREES.
— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) January 11, 2024
Understandably, both teams need to play in this game and there’s no real advantage for one team over another. The Dolphins typically play at Miami in the fall, which produces either sunny temperatures that can reach 90-100 degrees on the field, or rainy contests that produce sloppy conditions and sloppy play. They’re used to snow games, such as last year’s snowfest at Buffalo, but there’s no real way to prepare for temperatures this abnormally low.
Typically these kinds of games are defined by an extended use of the run game, as deep passes become extremely difficult due to the conditions. This could turn out to be an advantage for Miami with their heavy use of the ground game with playmakers like De’Von Achane and Raheem Mostert against a run defense for Kansas City that leaves a lot to be desired.
Banged Up, Bruised, and Broken
The biggest storyline for Miami heading into this game has to be how the whole team has suffered through injuries. Every team tends to suffer serious injuries to a certain position, such as the New York Jets losing Aaron Rodgers or the Cleveland Browns losing Nick Chubb for the entire season. But the amount of playmakers that are out for this game for the Dolphins is borderline comical:
-Linebacker Bradley Chubb
-Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel
-Linebacker Jaelan Phillips
-Linebacker Jerome Baker
-Linebacker Cameron Goode
-Cornerback Xavien Howard
-Cornerback Keion Crossen
-Center Connor Williams
-Left Guard Isaiah Wynn
-Running Back Salvon Ahmed
On top of all these players who are confirmed to be out, there are a few who are still questionable for Saturday, such as Jevon Holland, Deshon Elliot, Jaylen Waddle and Mostert.
The most ironic thing about all of this is one of the biggest talking points before this season began was if Tua could go a whole season without suffering an injury. As luck would have it, he did, but the rest of the team didn’t have the same fate.
It’s never useful to think about the what-ifs, but if Miami entered their final games of the season fully healthy, could they have won enough games to be first place in the conference? It’s hard to say, Baltimore is equally stacked with a mainly healthy roster, but they certainly would have had a chance.
Are You Ready For It?
On the opposite side of the field are the Kansas City Chiefs, who also have an 11-6 record but are the winners of the AFC West nonetheless. There’s no Buffalo-like team in their division. The LA Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders both fired their coaches, and the Denver Broncos gave up 70 points in a professional football game. Enough said.
Both offensively and defensively, this Chiefs team may be the most limited it’s been in recent memory, which is a compliment to how dominant this team has been for the past five years. They’re coming off a Super Bowl victory against Philadelphia, and not that long ago beat San Francisco in Miami in early 2020.
The Kingdom awaits. pic.twitter.com/ayIJx5j4t7
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 12, 2024
Still, there’s no denying that there’s something off with this Chiefs team. They’ve had two major storylines that I’m guessing you may have heard, neither of which are related to winning.
1. Their wide receivers, such as Rashee Rice, Justin Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Kadarius Toney, have dropped the most passes out of any team this season with 44 total, including some critical drops against Detroit, Buffalo and Las Vegas which helped them lose those games.
2. Tight end Travis Kelce is in a relationship with Taylor Swift.
As weird as the season has been for Miami, it’s been just as strange for the Chiefs. For the first time in a while, they’re not the favorites to win the AFC. There’s actual doubt about their head coach, Andy Reid, and his ability to lead the team to another Super Bowl.
Despite everything that’s been said, never count out the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is arguably still the best quarterback in football. And even with all the outside noise, Kelce is still an unstoppable tight end that Miami’s defense is going to struggle to contain. Chris Jones, their all-pro defensive tackle, is a quarterback killer and a focal point of a defense that has had to bail out the offense more than ever before.
This will be the second meeting between the Dolphins and Chiefs this season. Back in early November (In Germany of all places), a late Dolphins comeback was cut short as they fell by a score of 21-14. Miami’s explosive offense was limited in the first half but found momentum too little, too late.
It Ain’t Looking Good, Chief
Off we go with two teams that are kind of unsure about how they’ve got here.
Offensively, Miami has proven to be the more explosive team and can put up massive points against some of the weaker teams in the NFL. But against teams with a winning record, the Dolphins have only managed a last-second win over Dallas on Christmas Eve. Against defenses along the likes of Buffalo and Baltimore, the Dolphins offense can struggle to get the ball moving down the field, no matter how fancy the playcalling is.
They have the weapons to do so, with wide receiver Tyreek Hill having one of his best seasons in the NFL. Just shy of 2,000 receiving yards, this will be his first return to Arrowhead Stadium after being traded away to Miami two years ago.
Maybe the biggest question will be how Tua will perform. This will be his first time playing in the playoffs, and he’s coming off the best statistical season of his career with Miami, leading the league in passing yards among a whole host of franchise records broken. On the biggest stage, we’re gonna see if he can keep his legendary season going.
The defense should be the biggest concern. With so many key players out, it’s going to be up to the ones who are still left, like Christian Wilkins and Jalen Ramsey, to step up and lead the team against Mahomes. It’s no small task, but maybe the extremely cold weather will work with them to that end.
On that end, the weather will make scoring hard to come by. With the passing game taking a hit, and the running game being crucial, this might be a fast-paced contest with points at a premium. Unfortunately, I feel that Miami is not well-equipped for this game on so many levels, primarily due to the aforementioned injuries. They’ll keep it close, but I believe Mahomes and Kansas City will find a way to pull through, and the playoff-win drought for the Dolphins will continue.
But anything’s possible in games like these.
KC – 20
MIA – 14