The Kansas City Chiefs are sitting comfortably at 11-1 right now. The AFC West is all but clinched, the defense is quietly playing better than people realize. Furthermore, Patrick Mahomes is once again in a race for the NFL MVP award. But these next two road games could be trying matchups. This week a trip to South Beach to face the young and hungry Miami Dolphins awaits. In the following week, we will see a game that could end up being a Super Bowl preview, depending on how things fall into place. At first glance, many would probably say that the New Orleans Saints provide a tougher challenge to Kansas City. I would argue that the opposite is the case. Today, we will look into where things stand for both the Dolphins and Saints on both sides of the ball, and how that translates to playing the Chiefs.
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Tua vs Taysom/Brees
The Saints offense is always going to have some tricks up their sleeve, due to the mind of head coach Sean Payton. However, neither quarterback has lit the world on fire over the course of the season. Drew Brees, if he returns for the game, will be coming off of a nasty rib injury. He had fractured 11 ribs in his last game. Over the course of the last couple of years, Brees has had to rely more on check downs and has struggled to constantly beat defenses over the top. On the other hand, Taysom Hill has only attempted 43 career passing attempts. Despite how he is decorated as, the most dangerous thing Hill brings to the table is his legs. He should receive credit for his powerful, head of steam running style. But overall, Kansas City’s prowess in man coverage on the outside and ball skills over the top make this matchup favorable for Kansas City.
Tua Tagovailoa is dangerous for a couple of reasons. For one, the jury is still out on Tua as a quarterback at the NFL level. He can win with RPO action, throwing on the run or even deep passing. For the most part, Miami has tried to keep Tagovailoa’s environment controlled. Though last week, we saw them institute more freedom and improvisation in the arm of Tua. And let’s be honest, a big game like this against the defending Super Bowl champs is not going to be anything new for this quarterback.
Big Game Tua
Going back to his freshman season at Alabama, Tua stepped in and led a Crimson Tide comeback against Georgia in the National Championship Game. Taking over for Jalen Hurts in the second half, Tagovailoa came out firing. He tossed three touchdown passes, including the overtime game winner to Devonta Smith. We have seen him attack all levels of the field and carried out the Dolphins’ offense nearly to a tee.
Both offensive lines are among some of the better blocking units in the league. There is a way in which the Chiefs defense could feel more comfortable, however. When you look at the Saints offensive line, they are a zone blocking unit. As a result, they are not as prone to changing their blocking assignment against multiple looks from the defense. Whereas with the Dolphins, they overhauled the offensive line this offseason. They are more functional as a power blocking unit, where rookies like Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley have started their careers off strong. Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers have also been dominant as run blockers.
Four of the Saints current starting five may be the best set of blockers in the NFL. Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz and Ryan Ramczyk have a combination of stoutness and confidence that is not matched by many others. This is one spot where the Chiefs could struggle more with New Orleans, compared to the Miami Dolphins. Nonetheless, the zone blocking schemes have been more favorable for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. His ability to bring blitzers from wider angles, the second level or from the interior may be tough for the Saints.
Slowing Down Mahomes
Both defenses are playing well right now. The Miami Dolphins are second best in the NFL in scoring defense, have the second most takeaways and have the fifth most interceptions in the league. Scoring through the air, like the Chiefs can do at will, could also be difficult. The Dolphins have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the league (14 in 12 games).
It is pretty crazy to see how little cornerback Xavien Howard gets talked about nationally. His eight interceptions this season is best in the NFL. He also has the most INTs by far since 2017 in the NFL, despite missing 15 games across two seasons. But let’s not just focus on box score stats. Howard and new teammate Byron Jones have suffocated passing offenses all season long. Their ability to win in tight man coverage, or with their instincts in zone, is a tricky matchup for superb weapons like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or Sammy Watkins. This personnel of the Dolphins could force the Chiefs to rely more on the run game, which is not their ultimate bread and butter.
Getting To The Passer
In New Orleans, the Saints’ strengths lie in the defensive line. This makes for a much more complementary approach for that of the Chiefs offense. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson are a grueling match for Kansas City’s up and down offensive line. Hendrickson has got to the quarterback consistently all season. His 10.5 sacks on the season are tied for fourth best in the league. He is sitting amongst some elite company in TJ Watt, Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett and others. Jordan is also just as dangerous as a run defender, as he is a pass rusher. The veteran continues to age like fine wine. The backend has seen drop offs, however. Marshon Lattimore has not been the ballhawk that he was when entering the league. And the Saints safety position is unrecognizable.
The Dolphins can test the Chiefs with Cover 0 blitzes that have given guys like Jared Goff and Justin Herbert fits. Miami is also more prone to disguising multiple looks, which could lead to more chaos for the Chiefs offensively.
While both matchups will not be easy, this week’s trip to Miami should not be taken lightly. Personnel wise, Kansas City is built more to withstand the Saints and their history in big games like that are a solid indicator. Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.