It’s likely that regardless of where it was being played — or what happened in the week before it was played — this Week 9 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins still would have been the 2023 season’s most anticipated game.
But this matchup does, of course, have additional intrigue because it is being played in Frankfurt, Germany — and because Kansas City needs to find a way to win this game after its ugly 24-9 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 8.
Dropping a bad game to a bad team — and then beating a good opponent — is often part of a great season. But losing to the Dolphins on Sunday would put the Chiefs on their heels going into next week’s Super Bowl rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles — and would have serious ramifications for the postseason.
Even though they seem very far away now, there have been times this season that the Chiefs’ offense has been very good. It’s time for the team to remind the league that it can beat any team — on any field — and continue to control the AFC.
Here are a few Kansas City players who are trending as the team heads into a monumental matchup.
Defensive end Mike Danna: All season, we have been bullish on Kansas City’s entire pass-rushing unit. Fellow defensive end George Karlaftis continues to improve, leading the team with six sacks. But right behind him with 5.5 sacks (tied with Chris Jones!) is Danna. Having already exceeded 2022’s career high, he’s on pace for double-digit sacks this year. While he may be undersized, Danna is very solid technically — and can contribute from either the outside or the inside. Already a valuable rotational player, he is now taking the next step as a pass rusher. The Chiefs will need his help against Miami, because Tua Tagovailoa gets the ball out of his hands more quickly than any other other NFL quarterback. Getting quick interior pressure from Danna, Jones (and Charles Omenihu) will be a key factor in slowing the Dolphins’ offense.
Wide receiver Rashee Rice: In both of Miami’s losses this season, an opposing wide receiver had a big game. In Week 4, the Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs registered six catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns — including a 55-yard catch-and-run. In Week 7, Eagles wideout A.J. Brown collected 10 catches for 137 yards and a score — which included a 42-yard reception. While the Chiefs don’t have a wide receiver like either Diggs or Brown, their top guy is now Rice. He’s already shown the ability to make tough receptions, run after the catch and break tackles. Could this game be a breakout performance for him? It would go a long way toward securing Kansas City’s seventh win — and answering some serious questions about its receivers.
Running back Isiah Pacheco: To reach its full potential, the Chiefs’ offense needs balance. And to lean into its strengths, it needs a spark plug. Pacheco can give the offense both of those things. The second-year back has shown himself to be a valuable, productive, energy-giving player — but in this matchup, Kansas City will be without his complementary player: Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Dolphins have a good run defense — but when they have executed on offense, the Chiefs have already faced (and beaten) some of those. They should do to Miami what teams try to do to Kansas City: run the ball — and force the opposing offense to sit and watch.
Others trending in the right direction: linebackers Drue Tranquill, Leo Chenal and Willie Gay Jr., defensive ends George Karlaftis and Charles Omenihu, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and placekicker Harrison Butker
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: There will be lots of attention focused on Miami wideout Tyreek Hill. We’ll hear all about the trade the Chiefs made with the Dolphins — and Hill’s still-stellar production. That will endlessly be compared to Kansas City’s struggles with its wideouts this season. When the Chiefs traded Hill, part of the plan was to use players like Toney to replace some of Hill’s production at a lower cost. But in the first half of this season, Toney might be the team’s biggest disappointment. He’s accumulated just 104 total yards in eight games. That’s just 13 yards per game. If he could find a way to become a significant part of the offense, that could give it a big boost. So far, however, that’s only been a hope — and that hope is fading.
EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah: As expected, Omenihu’s return has cut into snaps that would otherwise have gone to the team’s first-round draft pick. The rookie logged just nine defensive snaps against the Broncos, making him a non-factor in a game where the team’s pass rushers had a big day. We knew that it might take some time for Anudike-Uzomah to develop, but his recent decline in playing time looks like a step backward — while others are stepping forward.
Cornerback Joshua Williams: This is another young defender who rarely saw the field in Denver. With only five defensive snaps, Williams was a non-factor against a team that possesses receivers who might have been a good matchup for him. On Sunday, will he be expected to stick with Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle? Or will he be on the sidelines, watching Jaylen Watson solidify his position as the third cornerback? For Williams, either result might turn out badly.
Others trending in the wrong direction: running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon and wide receivers Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Value (sleeper) pick: Wide receiver Justin Watson
It’s been well-documented that the Chiefs have a wide receiver problem — specifically, that it doesn’t many have wideouts that quarterback Patrick Mahomes can trust. Watson, however, is a wide receiver in whom Mahomes has displayed a significant amount of trust. This season, the sixth-year veteran has been the team’s best deep threat, averaging nearly 22 yards per reception. The Dolphins are a big play waiting to happen — so Sunday’s game could become a shootout. If it does, expect Mahomes to increase the target share for both Watson and Rice.