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AFC Seeding is on the line for the Chiefs and Dolphins

Today the Kansas City Chiefs depart for Frankfurt, Germany. On Sunday, they’ll face the Miami Dolphins in a Titanic AFC Showdown, that quite likely will determine the top seed in the conference. Even though Kansas City has the lead over Miami for the next 72 hours, this head-to-head matchup is one the Chiefs can ill afford to lose.

When the 2023 NFL schedule came out, the Kansas City Chiefs were blessed with four key home games, the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and the Cincinnati Bengals. At the onset, all four teams were considered playoff teams, but to play them all at Arrowhead included some good fortune.

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However, when it was announced, that the NFL was going to Germany last year, Chiefs fans already knew Kansas City would play a home game in Frankfurt. Thus, the NFL in its wisdom to find big matchups overseas to expand the brand chose the Dolphins over the Chicago Bears as the Chiefs’ opponent.

The Dolphins already arrived in Frankfurt. So, they have a head start in acclimating to the new time zone and calm any remaining jet lag. Honestly, I doubt that’ll play a factor in the game.  Head Coach, Andy Reid has always preferred to get a couple of practices in Kansas City before darting off to a game on foreign soil.

The Chiefs will be rested and ready to go.

What happens in the game is anyone’s guess at this point. The Dolphins stand 6-2 and have beaten six bad teams (Chargers, Patriots twice, Broncos, Giants, and Panthers) while losing to the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. Both those losses were on the road and that’s not generally been a strong suit for this football team this year or last year.

The fact Kansas City will be the home team, and the stadium will be decked out in red and have the feel of Arrowhead, the Chiefs still have a distance to travel. However, the distance to the AFC top seed will get much more difficult if they come out flat against a Dolphins team that can put up points – like the Chiefs used to do with their offense.

It’s been well documented the Kansas City Chiefs offense is a work in progress. It’s a bit surprising considering Patrick Mahomes is the quarterback, but last week’s AFC West loss at Denver makes this upcoming matchup even more critical for Mahomes and his teammates.

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The hype heading into this game is clearly centered on Tyreek Hill. The former Chief is now a Dolphin, and though he’s been on his best behavior with the media this week, explaining how he never wanted to leave Kansas City, the money on the table was not enough for his talents, he still gave the team some bulletin board material.

To me, it’s old news and by Hill’s constant dialogue about leaving the Chiefs, he’s holding some resentment. Kansas City was not going to extend Hill. They tried to a degree, but the fact Miami offered five picks for him and gave him the highest guarantee for any wide receiver to date, both sides won the trade.

On the field, this game is a tricky one for both teams.  Dolphins Quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa has been playing good football. However, he struggles against better defenses and on Sunday morning, he’ll face a really good one in Kansas City.  Yes, I really said that.

Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, has built a top-five unit that has played great in all eight games to date. They’ve carried the offense, but they’ve not faced an offense like the Dolphins. They are fast and talented, and if Tua is given time in the pocket to go through his progressions, they are darn near impossible to stop.

The Chiefs’ defense, which is already without Nick Bolton, and quite likely Willie Gay, will be hard-pressed to cover the Dolphins complicated passing and rushing attack without help from the secondary. In other words, the back of the defense is going to determine how well the guys up front can get to Tua.

On the flip side, all eyes are on Mahomes. He had one of the worst games of his career against the Broncos, and I can’t see him playing bad football in consecutive weeks. He’s never played poorly on back-to-back Sundays so I’m confident, the offense is going to get back on track.

It’s a big game for KC’s quarterback. He’s been under the gun trying to teach his young receivers the offense. It’s not so much the X’s and O’s that are the problem, it’s the adlib aspect when Mahomes is on the move.  The ability to create more time for more complex routes to open remains the staple of what makes Mahomes so great.

With defenses playing more zone, and relying on four pass rushers, routes tend to take longer to develop. Yet, Mahomes doesn’t take the check-down routes at times which tends to make it more difficult to get first downs in short bursts rather than rely on a big play.

At times this season, Mahomes has done a nice job when he’s patient and spreads the ball around, but in both Broncos games, they implemented a strategy that made it difficult for Kansas City to score points, and KC’s quarterback did not take what they were giving him.

If that happens against the Dolphins defense, the Chiefs will simply lose this football game.

However, the Dolphins haven’t shown a winning formula against elite teams. Kansas City might be their most difficult road test to date. In coming off an embarrassing loss the Chiefs, are playing with an extra edge this weekend, which could prove beneficial if this game is too close to call late in the fourth quarter. They have a sizable chip on their shoulders and with a bye week ahead, they don’t want to simmer in consecutive AFC losses until they face the Eagles at home for Monday Night Football.

So, who wins on Sunday? 

In using my crystal ball, I’m giving the edge to Kansas City based on the Mahomes factor. If he comes out hot, the Dolphins won’t win. If he’s flat, the opposite will occur. My money is on the two-time Super Bowl MVP.

Final Score:

Chiefs 31 – Dolphins 23

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