If you have been following my writing for the last couple of weeks, here and here, you probably started to notice a trend. Both of those articles were about Todd Haley in some form or fashion. I guess you could say I have developed a man crush on the non-shaving, sweaty hat wearing, Chiefs head coach. However, after four straight wins, which established a tie for first place in the AFC West, these next two games could be the biggest of the season for Haley and the Chiefs.
This weekend, the Miami Dolphins pay a visit to Arrowhead Stadium. The following weekend is divisional game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead. While Denver does not appear to be a threat, divisional rivalries rarely play out the way they are supposed to. These next two home games will go a long way in determining the Chiefs success in 2011, and will truly show how well Todd Haley is at motivating his players.
You see these are the type of games players tend to overlook. The Chiefs are coming off BIG wins in back-to-back division games, the second one in a less than predictable fashion*. After games like that it is only natural for players to look at an 0-7 Dolphins team and a 2-5 Broncos team and think this will be an easy win.
* – Out of all the football games I have watched in my life I can’t begin to count the number of times I have been hoping and praying that the opposing quarterback would fumble a snap as they were attempting to run out the clock. That was one of the craziest endings I have ever seen in a football game. The fact that it happened to Philip “Worst Day Ever” Rivers makes it even better.
This weekend’s game has two of the more storied original AFL franchises facing off in Kansas City. The Chiefs, who played in the very first Super Bowl, and the Dolphins, who once completed a perfect season, with a Super Bowl win, in 1972.
Unlike that 17-0 season, the Dolphins are trying to avoid the opposite of perfection this year. The Chiefs, with Todd Haley at the wheel, are trying to return to their past greatness.
Miami has won the last two meetings against the Chiefs, the last being a 38-31 win in Kansas City in 2008. The last Chiefs win against the Dolphins was in 2005 in Miami, with the last home win back in 2002.
The Dolphins, in spite of their 0-7 record, have played a number of teams tough this season, including last week’s game against the Giants, and the previous week’s game against the Broncos.
Miami has scored 17 or fewer points in each of the last six games. The Dolphins rank 12th in rushing offense and 25th in passing offense. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas have combined for 637 yards on the ground.
Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, who has been sacked 27 times, has completed 59 percent of his passes for 706 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. Ex-Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall has caught 38 passes for 538 yards and one TD, while Davone Bess has 27 grabs for 323 yards.
The Miami defense ranks 13th against the and 27th against the pass, while recording 15 sacks and forcing four turnovers. Yeremiah Bell leads the team with 59 tackles, adding a sack and a fumble recovery. Cameron Wake has five sacks and Jimmy Wilson has two forced fumble and an INT.
None of those stats jump out at you, and at 0-7 none of those stats should jump out at you. But this is what makes this such a tough game to assess. It is a trap game for the Chiefs, plain and simple.
If Haley was smart, which I think he is, he would have started talking about the Dolphin game in the locker room immediately following the win over the Chargers. Haley should know this is a trap game, and he has already stated that the Dolphins are better than their record indicates. On top of that Haley also has a short week of practice to get his players ready.
This is where a head coach earns his money. The Chiefs just finished winning a game that was as improbable as any I have ever seen in the NFL. Instead of enjoying the victory, hopefully Haley immediate made a point of telling his team that they have to shake off the Chargers win and get ready for the Dolphins.
For Haley and his players this will be a mental week of preparation just as much as it is physical. The Chiefs are easily talented enough to beat Miami, however, they must be ready and as fired up as they were for Monday Night Football. This is the NFL and no game is a given, just ask the New Orleans Saints! Any Given Sunday!