When the NFL schedule came out, this week was probably viewed as gimme for the Kansas City Chiefs. Turn the page to December, and we have an exciting matchup on tap. These two teams are currently in the playoff picture. Kansas City has playoff experience, coming off of a Super Bowl championship. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have raced to their best start as a franchise since 2003, sitting at 8-4.
Today, we will take a deep look at the Dolphins as they stand right now. What can we expect from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa? Will this be one of the best, if not the best, defenses that Patrick Mahomes and company have seen all season? We will hit on all of that, as well as how head coach Brian Flores is making a strong case for 2020 NFL Coach of the Year. Without further ado, let’s give our thoughts of the Chiefs’ opponent for this week. Here is our view of the Miami Dolphins from behind enemy lines.
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While this was always set to be Tua’s team, the timing of the switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa brought out a lot of questions. Miami had just scored 121 points over their four games from Weeks 3-6 when they made the switch. Good for 30.3 points per game. Well, we have seen the Dolphins remain afloat in house, and the wins have continued to surface. Tagovailoa has carried out offensive coordinator Chan Gailey‘s offense to a near tee. His prowess in plays involving RPO action have kept defenses honest. The ability to attack all three levels of the field has also been consistent. And do not forget about him taking off and running. While the environment for Tua has been largely controlled, the Miami Dolphins have started to give him more freedom as the weeks go by.
In this offense, wide receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki have been reliable targets for Tagovailoa. Parker’s ability to high point balls down the field and win with a physical style is an intriguing matchup for Kansas City. Gesicki plays his position as a larger receiver so to speak. He has natural hands and is sneaky good after the catch. Tua is no stranger to the spotlight, making this a riveting challenge for the Chiefs defense. He thrives in big moments and Tagovailoa will no doubt come out swinging against the defending champs.
Perhaps no defense is as collectively dominant as the Miami Dolphins. They enter this week ranking second best in scoring defense, second best in takeaways and fifth best in interceptions. Most of all, the Dolphins have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the league (14 in 12 games). This makes things compelling when going up against a MVP frontrunner in Mahomes. On the season, the Chiefs quarterback has thrown 31 touchdown passes to just a miniscule two interceptions.
The player that has to feel confident entering Sunday is cornerback Xavien Howard. This year’s interceptions leader can win in man or zone, while suffocating opponents with his sticky coverage. Other defensive backs like Byron Jones, Nik Needham and Eric Rowe have also stood out throughout much of the season. They will be looking for chances at takeaways or punishing hits through the duration of the contest.
Elsewhere, former Chief defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is leading the way for the Miami Dolphins pesky pass rush. Their 31 sacks are tied for eighth best in the NFL. Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel and Zach Sieler have all generated at least 2.5 sacks or more this season. Their blitzes have been relentless out of exotic looks. Miami has blitzed the second most in the NFL (41.2%). We know how well Mahomes has done in his career against the blitz. But, we also know this Kansas City offensive line has been shaky as of late. Due to where the Miami Dolphins have dominated defensively, this may be a game where the Chiefs have to rely more on the run.
Coach of the Year
Others like Sean McDermott in Buffalo, Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland or Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh have strong cases for Coach of the Year. Yet, Brian Flores would be my pick for the award, if I were to hold a vote. This team started off his tenure last year as the worst team in the NFL. Fans were calling them out for “tanking.” This defense that we are now praising, was the worst in the league. After plenty of roster moves and certain leaders buying into the new brand, this team started to turn it around at the end of last season. Their signature Week 17 win at the New England Patriots last year helped the Chiefs get a first round bye, started the downfall of Tom Brady‘s tenure with the Patriots and carried over to this season.
While others from the Bill Belichick tree have failed to build their own “Patriot Way” outside of Massachusetts, Flores has instilled an environment that players want to be a part of. He has belief and trust in his players. More importantly, Flores has placed them in position to succeed, on both sides of the ball. This rebuild was likely not supposed to have been this beneficial already. Nonetheless, the Miami Dolphins and Brian Flores have begun to put the rest of the AFC on notice.
Be on the lookout for the final FPC Chiefs article of the week, where we will list keys to victory for both Kansas City and Miami. 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.