On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the Miami Dolphins. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Kansas City is favored to win. We welcome Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider — our sister SBNation site covering the Dolphins — for Five Questions with the Enemy.
How do Miami fans feel? Is there excitement about the postseason, or is there concern due to the team’s limited success against other playoff-bound opponents?
There is definitely a sense of frustration after leading the AFC East for 15 of the first 17 weeks of the season, only to watch the Buffalo Bills claim the title in the final week — especially in a game in which the Dolphins’ defense held the Bills to 14 points and the difference was a punt return touchdown. Dolphins fans have seen the team collapse in December and January way too often.
The storyline of Miami not beating “good” teams this year felt way overblown — but now, it feels like it might be true. The Dolphins did have an incredibly difficult end to the season, playing the NFC’s second seed, the AFC’s top seed and the AFC’s second seed over the final three weeks. Now they get to face the AFC’s third seed. Rough way to end the regular season. But the team knows the storyline and will be coming out looking to prove it wrong — and potentially set up a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens next week.
Since the Dolphins lost the past 10 games played in temperatures below 40 degrees, how do you anticipate the Dolphins will respond to Saturday’s extremely cold conditions?
The weather will definitely be a concern heading into this game. The Dolphins are not used to the cold — and they will have to figure it out quickly if they are going to have any success. Miami’s running attack is strong enough to carry the team, but they have to stick with it — and they have to give the Chiefs different looks and attack from different directions. Against the Buffalo Bills last week, rookie running back De’Von Achane was having a great game in the first half, with Miami using counter actions and pitches to get him into space. In the second half, the Bills adjusted to the Dolphins’ game plan, and it felt like Miami stubbornly kept trying to make it work. If Raheem Mostert is able to play, that should help. But whatever the case, the Dolphins need to get the running game started — and stick with it — to offset the wind and cold.
The good news here, at least from a Dolphins fan’s perspective, is the coldest game the Dolphins have ever played was back in 2008, when they beat the Chiefs 38-31 in Week 16. That game was 10 degrees with a windchill of -12. Saturday night will likely be colder, but at least the franchise has pulled this off before.
Despite finishing the season with the second-highest scoring offense at 29.2 points per game, the Dolphins scored only 14 against the Chiefs in Week 9. What adjustments do you believe head coach Mike Daniels should implement in this game?
Miami has to get off to a better start this week than they did in that game. The Chiefs were able to hold Miami scoreless in the first half, and the Dolphins could never make up for the early struggles. Miami looked like the team that was jet-lagged from the trip over to Germany, despite having traveled over mid-week while the Chiefs waited until the weekend to arrive. It felt like Miami was walking through the first half — and the halftime (and final) score reflected that.
The Dolphins also have to avoid the turnovers. Fumbles killed them in Week 9. In a cold game this weekend, they have to hold on to the ball and not give Patrick Mahomes extra possessions.
As Tyreek Hill returns to GEHA Field at Arrowhead for the first time, do you believe his comeback might serve as a distraction — or potentially interfere with his performance due to heightened emotions?
That is a really good question. We have seen Hill struggling the last few weeks — partly because of an ankle injury that is likely a high-ankle sprain he is powering through. The other part, however, is a sudden rash of drops. Those may be coming because Hill — especially with fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle sidelined with an ankle injury the last couple of games — feels like he has to be the spark of the offense. He is trying too hard. He wants to hit the big play on every catch — even when just securing the ball would give Miami a first down and keep the drive alive.
Hill is such a weapon for the Dolphins’ offense. But if he feels like he is the only option to get the Dolphins on the scoreboard, he could make mistakes. If he gets into the mindset that he must make an impression back in that stadium, we could see the same situation. Mike McDaniel, Miami’s head coach, seems optimistic that Waddle will be able to play on Saturday. Hopefully, that will open up the field and let Hill settle into playing more like himself.
Since their last playoff victory in 2000, the Dolphins have made the postseason four times without winning a playoff game. What does Miami need to do to break this playoff drought?
I think it really is a matter of controlling the ball with the run game, avoiding costly mistakes like fumbles being returned for touchdowns and making sure they adjust to any adjustments the Chiefs make. The Dolphins are 4.5-point underdogs in this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. They should come in playing loose, because one seems to be giving them a chance in this game — so go prove them wrong. The pressure is off. Just execute.
Of course, the Dolphins must also figure out who is the “next man up” in their injury woes. Miami signed three pass rushers this week to compensate for having Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, Andrew Van Ginke, and Cameron Goode on injured reserve. During last week’s game, they also lost inside linebacker Jerome Baker, who had just returned from a four-game stretch on injured reserve. Cornerback Xavien Howard has been ruled out of the game with a foot injury; he was seen in a cast during Tuesday night’s “Hard Knocks” episode. Miami’s defense is a mess right now — always a good situation when facing someone like Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense.
Be sure to check out the answers I gave to their questions by clicking here.