I'm picking the Miami Dolphins over the Kansas City Chiefs today. It means nothing because I'm 0-2 so far this year, having picked Miami to lose against New England and beat Buffalo.
What can I say, I'm better at writing than prognosticating. (Not by a lot, I know, smart alecks).
I'm also pretty good with ideas sometimes and in my column in today's Miami Herald I tell you how the Dolphins can put their five best offensive lineman on the field at the same time once Mike Pouncey is fully recovered from his hip surgery and returns to the lineup.
Interestingly, my idea is one Pouncey told me he is open-minded about although it would require some sacrifice from him.
So check out the column.
As for today's game against the Chiefs, here are the keys to the game:
When the Chiefs pass the football: Alex Smith has never played against the Dolphins despite being in his 10th NFL season. And the quarterback the Dolphins will see for the first time is having a hard time so far this season after posting a good season with the Chiefs last year. Smith has had very little protection from an offensive line that has been rebuilt. That line lost three starters to free agency. Eric Fisher, who was the No. 1 overall pick a year ago but is moving from the right to left tackle for the first time, has not been good. Behind shaky protection (six sacks in two games) Smith’s accuracy has suffered. The Chiefs do have a very good tight end corps, led by former Dolphin Anthony Fasano, that also includes Travis Kelce, who leads the team with an 18.6 yard per catch average. Fasano has caught a TD pass in 4 of the past 6 games. The Dolphins had a great pass rush in week one vs. New England but did not muster a sack against Buffalo last week. They want to get back to their New England level of performance. The Dolphins are also making some changes in the secondary. Will Davis, who has been inconsistent the first two weeks, is headed back to the bench. Jimmy Wilson, who started at safety the first two games, may still do that. But he will be at corner in the nickel replacing Davis. That means Michael Thomas is getting a lot of work, and perhaps even a start today, at safety. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Chiefs run the football: That sound you’re hearing is the Miami defense exhaling because Jamaal Charles, one of the most explosive runners in the NFL, has an ankle injury and is questionable for the game. He is a game-time decision. But regardless of whether Charles can play, Knile Davis will carry more of the running game than usual. Davis isn’t fast like Charles, but he is bigger (227 pounds) and more physical. The Chiefs were the 22nd ranked running team with Charles. And the 4.2 yards per rush is helped by the fact Smith has averaged 7.1 yards per rush, mostly on scrambles. The Dolphins are middle of the road against the rush. They’re ranked 13th in the NFL while allowing an average of 101 yards per game. The key to having any success against the Dolphins, however, is patience. That’s because teams are averaging only three yards per rush against Miami and that means the Dolphins are tied for fourth in the NFL in that category. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Dolphins pass the football: The Miami passing game is not in synch for one reason or another. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has strung together four sub par games dating back to the final two games last season. Receivers are not consistently running precise routes. The interior offensive line has been inconsistent, particularly in pass protection. It’s just not been very good, which is one reason the Dolphins are 31st (next to last) in the NFL with a 5.17 yards per attempt average. But Mike Wallace is playing well. He consistently gets open deep and has 6 TD catches in the past 8 games. The Chiefs pass defense has been, how to put it delicately, atrocious. Opposing QBs are completing 72.9 percent of their passes. They’ve allowed five TD passes and have zero interceptions. Opposing QBs have a 126.9 rating against K.C. so far. That’s really good. -- for the opposing quarterbacks. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Dolphins run the football: Knowshon Moreno is out and that hands the reins to the Dolphins running game to Lamar Miller who is clearly not as good instinctively as Moreno and doesn’t run downhill as much as Moreno. Making the handoff a bit more cringe worthy is that a sore ankle slows Miller some. The interesting question comes in what the Dolphins do behind Miller. Wisdom suggests the carries will go to rookie Damien Williams who has 22 runs so far this year and has averaged 4.8 yards per rush. The question here is whether exposing Williams to more primetime playing time will be too big a stage for the rookie. That’s where the lesser possibility of giving recently re-signed Daniel Thomas work could factor. Thomas is not a better runner than Williams. But he’s more experienced. The Dolphins will go with Williams. We’ll see how that works. The Chiefs have a solid front seven, which belies the fact they are yielding 125 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Special teams: The Dolphins last week had a punt blocked when Damien Williams declined to block his man. They muffed a punt. They yielded a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown. And to top it off, usually reliable punter Brandon Fields sliced not one but two punts off his foot to give Buffalo good field position. After a solid game against New England, this was a meltdown and one that cannot be forgotten unless the Miami special teams redeem themselves. For the Chiefs, rookie kicker Cairo Santos, an undrafted rookie free agent acquisition, has missed two of his four field goals so far with both of those misses inside 50 yards. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Coaching: Andy Reid turned Chiefs around last season as they went from a team that had the No. 1 overall pick based on their record in 2012 to a playoff team that won 11 games. Unfortunately, Reid has not stopped turning the team around, as they are now winless. This game tests the coach’s mettle as his team faces an urgent situation, on the road, against an arguably more talented team. Joe Philbin has to find a way to get the Dolphins started more quickly as Miami has trailed at halftime of both games it has played. Dolphins coaches this week have tried to address issues with the passing game, the interior offensive line and with the nickel defense. ADVANTAGE: Even.