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Injuries could affect the outcome of Saturday’s Chiefs-Dolphins matchup

Both Kansas City and Miami enter the Wild Card round with significant injury concerns.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

While most of the talk concerning the Kansas City Chiefs’ Wild Card playoff matchup against the Miami Dolphins has centered on the return of wide receiver Tyreek Hill to GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Peacock debates and the frigid temperatures expected, an underrated storyline is the long list of injuries each team is bringing into the contest.

Dolphins injuries

While both teams have injuries as they enter the postseason, Miami is more depleted — especially on defense. Just this week — after the team lost its top three pass rushers to injury — it signed a trio of veteran edge players: former Chief Justin Houston, Bruce Irvin and Malik Reed.

It is unlikely that these veterans can replace the production lost with injuries to Bradley Chubb (ACL tear), Jaelan Phillips (Achilles tear) and Andrew Van Ginkel (foot) — but the Dolphins had no choice. In Week 18 against the Buffalo Bills, the team’s pass rush was nearly non-existent.

As a team, the Dolphins finished the regular season with 56 sacks — 23.5 of them from Chubb, Phillips and Van Ginkel. This week, Miami has also added linebackers Jerome Baker (wrist) — who had 1.5 sacks on the season — and Cameron Goode (knee) to its Reserve/Injured (IR) list. So the players responsible for nearly half of the team’s 2023 sack production will not be available on Saturday night.

The Dolphins also have questions in the secondary. Three starters — cornerback Xavien Howard (foot) and safeties DeShon Elliott (calf) and Javon Holland (knees) have not practiced in preparation for the Chiefs. Howard has been declared out for Saturday’s game, while Elliott and Holland have both been listed as questionable.

Even with Kansas City’s offense struggling throughout the season, these injuries should be major concerns for the Dolphins.

Chiefs injuries

Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ main injury concern is at left tackle.

Starter Donovan Smith has not played since Week 13. Rookie Wanya Morris has been filling in admirably — but in Week 18, he suffered a concussion. He was held out of all of this week’s practices — and has been listed as out for the game — as he works through the league’s concussion protocol.

While Smith was a limited participant for two of this week’s practices, he was a full participant on Thursday — and was not given an injury designation for the game. We should expect him to reclaim his starting role on Saturday.

A longer-term concern is the status of running back Jerick McKinnon. According to a report this week, he has had surgery to repair a core muscle injury — and has also suffered a fractured pelvis. The surgery was performed at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia, which specializes in these injuries. It’s where wideout Mecole Hardman was treated in February.

Based on this information, the team will undoubtedly be without McKinnon for the remainder of the postseason. This leaves running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire — who turned in nice performances in the latter half of the regular season — as the main complement to Isiah Pacheco.

The bottom line

It’s rare for a team in the playoffs to be at full strength. So in the postseason, injuries are a significant factor in every team’s game plan.

While both teams have injury concerns entering Saturday’s game, Kansas City appears to have the edge. The Miami defense is depleted across the board, which could dramatically affect the outcome of this Wild Card matchup.

The Chiefs are well aware of the difficulties presented by a depleted position group in the playoffs — see Super Bowl LV — but the Chiefs are also entering the postseason with more experience and success than any other team in the dance.

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