By Carl Mahler and Kayla Morton
Going into Sunday’s game against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Miami Dolphins will be looking to improve on their 8-4 record and they have history on their side. Miami is 3-0 all-time at home when playing a team with a 11-1 record or better, and the Chiefs roll into Hard Rock Stadium with that exact season number to their name.
Dolphins Playing Meaningful December Football for the First Time in Years
Already three games better than last season’s 5-11 finish, Miami is pushing for a postseason berth in a tight AFC race. Currently in the No. 6 spot (out of seven) it is a leg up on a few teams, but share similar records with teams above and below them with one month to play. The Dolphins have their hands full against the very talented Chiefs offense, but look for their defense to try and stop the offense from running up the scoreboard early, if at all.
“December football, you don’t have room for error. Everything counts. That’s why when you say December is the most important, it really is,” Dolphins defensive end Shaq Lawson said. “It’s when you find out how good your team is and that’s the next step of potentially making the playoffs and winning the championship.
Miami’s Top-Notch Defense Enters Matchup as No. 2 in NFL
Miami’s defense enters the matchup as the No. 2 scoring secondary in the NFL. It has 13 interceptions in 12 games this season, including six in its last four games, with two each in its last two. The Dolphins also have three defensive scores on the year and have forced seven fumbles. They’ve also only gone one game without recording a sack (week 11) and have 31 on the season, including six last week and nine across their last two games.
“My goal is to just create plays and cause havoc to the offense. If that’s getting sacks, getting pressures, getting hits, I’m ready to do it all,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “It’s going to be a great game. We have a great game plan and we’ve just got to be ready for them.”
Flores to Mix in Man, Zone, Blitz with In-Game Adjustments
They blitz the fourth most of any team in the league and hold opposing quarterbacks to the sixth lowest QB rating when doing so. They’ve forced nine of their turnovers when sending extra attackers, and head coach Brian Flores said that’s the initial game plan for Sunday against QB Patrick Mahomes. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers force more turnovers when sending that pressure. Flores said Miami will rotate between man, zone and blitz packages but make in-game adjustments based on what the Kansas City offense attempts to do. The Chiefs also come into Miami with the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL.
Myles Gaskin Likely to Head Backfield Against Weak Chiefs Run Defense
Flipping to Miami’s offense, it’s likely it could be playing catch up. In order to have success on Sunday the Dolphins will need to run the football. Fortunately, despite a questionable tag, it looks as though running back Myles Gaskin (MCL) will play. But, backup Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) has already been ruled out and DeAndre Washington (hamstring) is doubtful. They’ll be thin again in the RB room and could need to rely on the diamond in the rough of Gaskin that has been an unforeseen glimmer for the Dolphins much of this season.
The running game has since some flashes this season that provided a glimpse of hope that maybe something good was going to come from it, but nothing consistent has come yet. Going into Sunday’s matchup the 26th ranked Miami rushing offense, averaging 96.5 yards per game and 3.65 yards per rush attempt, will go up against a vulnerable Chiefs run defense. Kansas City has allowed an average of 132 yards on the ground per game this season and already double-digit rushing scores (10). That’s good for 26th in the NFL in yards per game and 27th in yards per carry with 4.76.
Eric Rowe, Xavien Howard Have Big Tasks Guarding Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill
The biggest test of the season for the Dolphins will be facing the high power offense of the Chiefs. Mahomes just scratches the surface, but will bring weapons of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce into the game as well. Miami safety Eric Rowe will shadow Kelce most of the game and it is anticipated the NFL’s No. 1 cornerback Xavien Howard will be on Hill whenever the Dolphins’ secondary allows.
“The main thing is we have to communicate, get ready, get set fast. You can’t just mosey around and just think everything is going to happen. You really have to be intentional with what you have to do, communicate fast and ultimately get the job done,” Miami linebacker Jerome Baker said. “We’ve been doing it all year. We have a little experience doing it, so we should be all right.”
LBs Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts Likely Active
Miami will likely blitz and disguise its cover-zero approach on Sunday. It’ll likely feature those schemes more with the anticipated play of linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts who are expected to start are logging a limited practice on Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday. The Dolphins should play all of its normal starters in what will be the secondary’s biggest game of the season, and for the franchise, in many years.
Dolphins Could Reply On Three-TE Set
To counter on offense for Miami, QB Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) is expected to start and will likely lean on his TEs Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen in the game. WR DeVante Parker will also be on hand, and the two will need to find more consistent rapport, in order to be successful. Like Kansas City, expect the Dolphins to move the ball around to multiple guys to confuse the Chiefs defense who has had its problems this season to keep the game close.
Jim Nantz and Tony Romo will be on this CBS national game of the week at 1 p.m. eastern inside Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.
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– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also a co-host on the Full Press Fantasy Podcast. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.