Kansas City uncharacteristically struggled for large portions of this season and finished just 11-6, capturing the AFC's No. 3 seed. The Dolphins seemed like they had the AFC East all wrapped up before the injury bug bit them down the stretch, and they ended up losing both the division and home-field advantage.
Which of these teams will advance to the divisional round? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch
Date: Saturday, Jan. 13 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
Stream the game here with Peacock
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Chiefs -4; O/U 44.5 (via SportsLine consensus odds)
When the Dolphins have the ball
This will be a theme: The Dolphins are coming into this game very banged up. Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert are each for this game after sitting out the final two weeks of the regular season and getting in a full slate of limited practices this week. Tyreek Hill does not have an injury designation, but was limited all week due to the ankle and quad injuries he's been playing with down the stretch of the season. Tua Tagovailoa was not on the injury report at all this week, but we know he has been dealing with a shoulder injury. Luckily, Miami's offensive line should be back at something resembling full strength after Terron Armstead returned to a full practice on Thursday, and De'Von Achane was listed as a full participant as well.
In a game where the-- we're looking at single-digit temperatures with a wind chill factor around -30 degrees, as well as massive wind gusts throughout the second half -- Miami getting that line close to full health is important. Tagovailoa doesn't have the elite arm strength necessary to whip the ball through heavy winds, and a game plan more focused on short, quick passes and the run game might be needed to pull off this victory on the road. The Dolphins have (obviously) run the ball far more effectively with their offensive line starters on the field than when they've had to work with multiple backups up front.
Kansas City finished this season as a much better defense than any previous Patrick Mahomes-era Chiefs squad had, but it still had issues against the run. The Chiefs checked in just 27th in FTN's run defense DVOA, as well as 21st in yards allowed before contact per attempt, according to Tru Media. They allowed 4.7 yards per carry on outside rushes, which is where the Dolphins do their best work in the run game. Miami spent most of the first game between these two teams down by double digits and thus gave Mostert only 12 carries, but he picked up 85 yards and a touchdown on those totes.
Kansas City was able to severely limit the pass game in that first matchup, though, with Tagovailoa going 21 of 34 for 193 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while also taking three sacks. The Chiefs limited Hill to just 62 yards on 10 targets, and that was actually better than the 5.4 yards per attempt Miami averaged when Tua targeted his other pass-catchers.
Kansas City elected not to have L'Jarius Sneed follow Hill all over the field in that matchup, and it'll be interesting to see if Steve Spagnuolo and Co. stick with that strategy here, with Waddle coming off a significant injury. Spagnuolo is at his best as a bespoke game-plan designer, and you can bet that he'll have some creative pressure looks lined up designed to speed up Tagovailoa's process and force him into the type of mistake that ended last week's Bills-Dolphins game.
A plus for the Chiefs is that they were one of the best defenses in the NFL this season when it came to dealing with motion, particularly on passing plays. They ranked seventh in opponent's EPA/dropback on those snaps, per Tru Media, yielding just 6.2 yards per attempt and a mere six touchdown passes on 274 throws. Despite facing the 10th-most passing attempts on plays with motion, only one team allowed fewer scores.
Key for the Dolphins will be making sure that Tagovailoa has enough time to let Hill and Waddle's intermediate in-breaking routes develop, and that Tua can make those throws with enough zip so that they don't hang in the air. Out-breaking routes could be even more dangerous than they usually are for him, given the role wind could play in the proceedings.
When the Chiefs have the ball
The Dolphins are somehow even more banged up on defense than they are on offense. Miami will be without each of its top three edge rushers for this game as Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb and Andrew Van Ginkel are all on season-ending injured reserve, along with linebacker Jerome Baker. Cornerback Xavien Howard is out as well. Jevon Holland did not practice all week and is listed as questionable.
Melvin Ingram was signed in mid-December to be a rotational edge rusher playing 10-15 passing-down snaps, and instead he is a full-time starter. The Dolphins had to sign Justin Houston off the street just this week, because they so desperately need bodies coming off the edge. Eli Apple will again start in Howard's place on the outside opposite Jalen Ramsey. And Duke Riley is taking Baker's spot at inside linebacker. If Holland is out, then it'll be only DeShon Elliott, Brandon Jones and Elijah Campbell available at safety.
Given these limitations, it's hard to see how the Dolphins are going to generate much pressure on Patrick Mahomes. He's been under duress far more often this year than in previous seasons as the offensive line in front of him has struggled, but the weak links on the line are at tackle, where the Dolphins are now less equipped than ever to press an advantage. The Chiefs will likely still see their non-Rashee Rice receivers struggle to generate much in the way of separation, as has been the case all year, but there may now be enough time for Mahomes to freelance his way into chunk gains in a way there hasn't been over the second half of the year.
How Miami chooses to match up with Rice (who is playing both outside and in the slot these days) and Travis Kelce will be interesting to watch. Vic Fangio has typically preferred to keep Ramsey on the perimeter so he can use Kader Kohou in the slot after Kohou struggled outside to start the year. But Kansas City can line both Kelce and Rice up as slot threats and try to test Miami over the middle rather than to the outside, so Fangio may have to adjust things a bit. Rice barely played in the first matchup between these squads, catching two passes for 17 yards and a score on just two targets. Kelce had a mere three grabs for 14 yards. Mahomes ended up targeting Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson and Mecole Hardman with exactly half of his 30 pass attempts. Relatedly, he averaged just 6.0 yards per attempt for the game.
Kansas City's run game struggled for much of the season as the offensive line failed to impose its will and physicality on opponents. Isiah Pacheco ran 16 times for just 66 yards in the first matchup between these teams, and he averaged south of 4 yards per carry in five of the 12 games where he had double-digit rushing attempts. But Miami's pass defense was strong enough over the second half of the season that it is probably preferable to attack the Dolphins on the ground, and in a game with these weather concerns it could be especially difficult to tackle a runner with Pacheco's physical, violent running style. If the Chiefs can get him going at all, that would go a long way toward making things easier for a passing attack that has desperately needed some way to make things easier for a while now.
Miami is simply too banged up right now, on both sides of the ball. Add in the weather likely affecting the Dolphins' passing game more than it does the Chiefs', and it tips the scales even more in Kansas City's direction. Pick: Chiefs 20, Dolphins 13
If you want a more analytical approach to your NFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out the SportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in Super Wild Card Weekend.