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NFL Wild Card: Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs preview

The first day of Wild Card weekend concludes with the reigning NFL champion Chiefs hosting the Dolphins on Saturday night, in what is expected to be near sub-zero temperatures.

At the start of the season, this would have looked like one of the most explosive matchups around the league with two high-octane offenses going head-to-head, but both teams are coming in with questionable recent form and the conditions at Arrowhead Stadium are likely to have a major effect on how the game is played.

The Dolphins (11-6) were in the hunt for the top seed in the AFC last month, but costly defeats in their final two games against the Ravens and Bills have seen them not only having to play in the first round of the playoffs, but heading out on the road after they fell all the way to the sixth seed in the conference.

The Chiefs (11-6) have won the AFC West for the eighth straight season, but their tally of 11 wins was their worst performance since they went 10-6 in 2017. While they were among the favorites to retain their title at the start of the season, they begin the playoffs only fifth in the betting to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy with odds of +900. The Dolphins are out to +2000 for their first title in 50 years.

The Chiefs won 21-14 in Frankfurt, Germany, when the teams met in Week 9 of the regular season and will be hoping to repeat that success at a noisy but cold Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday night.

WhatMiami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs
WhereArrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
When8:00 PM ET, Saturday, January 13th
How to watchPeacock
OddsChiefs -4.5, Dolphins +190 ML

Read more: Wild Card weekend schedule, odds, how to watch

Injury Report

Miami Dolphins: DeShon Elliott, Jevon Holland, and Xavien Howard did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday. Terron Armstead didn't practice on Tuesday and was limited on Wednesday. De'Von Achane, Liam Elchenberg, Tyreek Hill, Raheem Mostert, Jalen Ramsey, and Jaylen Waddle were all limited in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jerome Baker, Bradley Chubb, and Andrew Van Ginkel are the notable players on injured reserve for Miami.

Kansas City Chiefs: Wanya Morris did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday due to a concussion. Justyn Ross didn't practice on Tuesday and was limited on Wednesday. Donovan Smith and Kadarius Toney were limited in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jerick McKinnon and Skyy Moore are the notable players on injured reserve for the Chiefs.

Dolphins damaged by injuries at worst possible time

Not only have the Dolphins been handed a tougher path to glory than they looked to be on course for a few weeks ago, they have picked up a spate of key injuries that will leave them short-handed on defense for their playoff run.

Top pass-rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips were already out of action when backup Andrew van Ginkel went down with a foot injury in last week's game against the Bills, along with fellow linebacker Jerome Baker (wrist). On top of that, Cameron Goode, who had been backing up Van Ginkel, also suffered a season-ending injury. Cornerback Xavien Howard is another likely absentee.

There is better news for the Dolphins offensively, as they hope to have wide receiver Jaylen Waddle available after he was injured against the Cowboys on Christmas Eve. Waddle, second on the team in receiving yards with 1,014, missed the games against the Ravens and Bills and will give the Chiefs plenty to think about if he can suit up.

The Dolphins' leading receiver by a distance is former Chiefs star Tyreek Hill, who would love to make an impact against his former team after being traded for five draft picks including first- and second-rounders before the 2022 season.

Miami may have to rely on its running game in this contest and it will help if Raheem Mostert can shake off knee and ankle injuries to line up in the backfield against the Chiefs in addition to impressive rookie De'Von Achane.

The Dolphins struggled on the road in some of their biggest tests in the regular season, losing 48-20 in Buffalo and 31-17 in Philadelphia as well as being overwhelmed 56-19 in Baltimore in their most recent trip.

Chiefs lacking sparkle of recent seasons

The Chiefs remain the defending NFL Champions but much of the air of invincibility that used to surround them has disappeared over the course of some fairly mundane performances this season.

Andy Reid became the third longest-serving head coach in the NFL when Bill Belichick parted ways with the Patriots on Thursday, but he needs to raise his team's level for the playoffs if they are to be champions again.

The Chiefs were upset by the Lions in their first game of the season in a sign of things to come. They still managed to make a 6-1 start to the year even though they were not blowing out teams in their trademark style of the past few seasons. They have gone only 4-4 since their Week 10 bye.

The Chiefs offense has been a joy to watch for most of the Reid-Mahomes era, but this season they have been plagued by dropped passes with rookie Rashee Rice the only wideout to perform consistently. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney in particular have made drive-killing drops. 

The outlook is much brighter on defense, with the Chiefs ranking second in the NFL in yards allowed per game and sacks. That unit has led the way for them this season in a complete reversal of their usual trend.

Weather could play a major role

The Dolphins not only had to leave the Sunshine State to play this game, they are likely to have to play in freezing conditions that will make life tough for them to run their more exotic offensive plays.

Forecast temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit could make this the coldest game the NFL has seen in eight years and it is especially bad news for the Dolphins, who have lost their last 10 games that have been played in temperatures below 40 degrees.

Conditions weren't exactly balmy when the teams met for an international series game in Germany in Week 9, but the Chiefs managed to get the win in that contest by a score of 21-14, with only one team scoring in each half.

That was a designated Chiefs home game, but playing at that neutral venue has now arguably helped KC since the Dolphins didn't get to see Arrowhead Stadium during the regular season.

The weather is expected to keep the score lower than it would normally be for a game between the Chiefs and Dolphins. The Over/Under of 44.0 total points reflects that.

Dolphins starved of playoff success

The Dolphins have not made it past the Wild Card round of the playoffs since 2000, when they were shut out 27-0 by the Raiders in the divisional round. Miami lost in the Wild Card round the following season and again in 2008, being beaten by the Ravens without posting a double-digit score either time.

They also made Wild Card exits against the Steelers in 2016 and the Bills last year, in a thrilling game that Miami lost by only three points, 34-31, despite having to start third-string quarterback Skyler Thompson.

The Chiefs have plenty of experience in recent playoff battles, reaching the NFL Championship game in three of the last four seasons and winning twice.

They have not often had to play in the Wild Card round, though, making their first playoff appearance in the divisional round in four of the last five seasons.

The Chiefs were the second seed after the 2021 season, though, and comfortably won their Wild Card game 42-21 over the Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium. 

They are favored at -230 ML to beat Miami on Saturday night with the Dolphins available at +190 ML.

Odds mentioned in this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.

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