4 burning questions ahead of Dolphins-Chiefs wild-card battle

The Miami Dolphins are headed to Kansas City for a matchup with the Chiefs during the wild-card round of the postseason. Miami was hoping to host a couple of playoff games this season and was on track to do so most of the year. Unfortunately, the loss to the Buffalo Bills last week cost them the AFC East.

The Dolphins now hold the No. 6 seed and will be on the road for the playoffs. This was a massive flip in the standings, considering Miami held first place in the AFC East for 16 out of 18 weeks during the regular season. Both Miami and Kansas City hold records of 11-6 in 2023.

The Dolphins have a short week to get ready for one of the most anticipated playoff runs in recent history. Here are some of the most burning questions ahead of the wild-card weekend.

What will the Dolphins offense do differently from their first matchup against the Chiefs?

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins matched up against the Chiefs earlier this season in Week 9, a game that was played in Frankfurt Germany. Miami lost the game 21-14 against Tyreek Hill’s former team. 14 points is tied for the lowest score by the Dolphins on the season. Coach Mike McDaniel is bound to come in with a different game plan this time around.

The Miami offense found success when they spread the ball around against Kansas City. On an eight-play 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, five different skill players touched the ball as the Dolphins marched down the field.

Miami was without speedster rookie running back De’Von Achane in Week 9. Achane is heavily used in the offense, expanding the playbook because he draws attention as a big play threat on any given down. With some of the other key offensive players coming off injuries, he will likely see a lot of action on Saturday.

Achane is a reliable ball carrier who averages 7.8 yards per carry. In cold weather conditions, it is often the running game that breaks the game open. Achane will be a consistent threat to break loose for 20 or more yards on any given down.

Will the Dolphins offense rely heavily on the MVP candidate wide receiver Tyreek Hill, or will they go for a more balanced attack utilizing all of their skill players?



What impact will the cold weather have?

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Kansas City is certainly not a warm place to play in January. This Saturday is shaping up to be freezing temperatures around 0 degrees.

This weather is especially a disadvantage for a team who plays in Miami. It will without a doubt be the coldest matchup of the season for the Dolphins. How they respond to this will be a key factor in whether or not they can compete with coach Andy Reid’s team.

Most of the Dolphins players are not used to weather conditions as extreme as these. Hopefully they have some time to practice outside in Kansas City to get used to the weather ahead of Saturday.

The Dolphins have a mediocre 4-4 road record this season with all four losses coming against other playoff teams. Miami suffered losses to the Bills, Eagles, Chiefs, and Ravens on the road this season.

Can the Dolphins break this negative trend on the road against tough competition in inclimate weather? No time like the playoffs for them to do so.

How will QB Tua Tagovailoa respond to a playoff atmosphere?

Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It is the first postseason start in the career of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who led the NFL in passing yards during the regular season with 4,624. He silenced numerous critics by staying healthy enough to start in every game for the aqua and orange, leading them to their second straight playoff berth.

Tagovailoa is no stranger to high expectations considering he was the starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide during two National Championship games. While the NFL is an entirely different level talent-wise, the experience in a high-intense game with a loud crowd will be familiar to Tagovailoa.

Against the Chiefs in Week 9, Tagovailoa completed 21 of 34 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. It was his second lowest yardage total on the season. Even though Tagovailoa did not turn the ball over, the Miami offense only had two plays that went for over 20 yards the entire game. This is an offense that is built for big plays with all of the fast skill players. Without the big plays, the offense is usually very containable.

In a playoff atmosphere with everything on the line, will Tagovailoa be more aggressive and try to win with big plays to his deep-threat receivers? or will he be more conservative and try to keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes and the injury-riddled Miami defense off of the field?

Who will step up for the defense in light of numerous injuries?

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

The Dolphins have had a long list of injuries to the defense late in the season. They are going to be without numerous key players for the rest of the season. There is no doubt the Miami defense will need players further down on the depth chart to make an impact on this game.

Miami will be shorthanded at linebacker without Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel and Jerome Baker for the entire playoffs. This is a huge blow for the Dolphins considering the 3-4 defense thrives the most when the best linebackers are in the game. Miami is also beat up in the secondary. Safeties Jevon Holland and DeShon Elliot along with cornerback Xavien Howard all logged DNPs on Tuesday.

There will without a doubt be a ‘next man up’ mentality on the defensive side of the football. Who is going to come up big and make the key plays?

Linebackers David Long Jr, Melvin Ingram and Emmanuel Ogbah will be responsible for shouldering a heavy load in the absence of multiple key pieces to the defense. The Dolphins have brought in veteran linebackers Bruce Irvin and Justin Houston for some additional depth.

Backup safety Brandon Jones made some impressive tackles for loss in the previous game against Buffalo. If Holland or Elliott are unable to go, Jones seems poised to make an impact. Cornerback Kader Kohou will also be quite active in Saturday’s contest, especially is Howard is unable to go.

Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire