The NFL Playoffs are underway, and the Kansas City Chiefs begin their title defense this Saturday in the Wild Card round.
The Miami Dolphins are coming into Arrowhead on Saturday, and it will take everything Kansas City can do to get to the divisional round for the sixth straight year.
Let's take a look at three keys to a Chiefs victory.
1. The Chiefs' defense has to continue to do what they've done all year long.
The #2 ranked defense in yards allowed and points allowed per game is going to be called upon again this Saturday in Arrowhead. With temperatures in the single digits, scoring will be hard to come by, and this Chiefs defense has all of the tools to show up in a big way.
Way back in Week 9, the Chiefs edged the Dolphins by a score of 21-14 in Germany. In that game, the defense made all the difference with a scoop-and-score in the 2nd quarter. The Dolphins offense was mostly contained, but there is no way to know how much of that should be attributed to traveling to Germany.
While KC hasn't played every offense well this year (specifically referencing losses against the Bills, Eagles, and Lions), however, these losses were largely punctuated by offensive mistakes. Having lost all 3 of those games by a combined 8-points, the defense wasn't the issue in those losses and will need to continue to be at their best if the Chiefs want to move on.
2. The Chiefs must contain Tyreek Hill
The likely Offensive Player of the Year is returning to Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since being traded two years ago, and he will be coming back with a vengeance. The league leader in receiving yards and pass plays of 40+ yards needs to be contained in Saturday's Wild Card tilt.
Typically, you hear "Let's let this player beat us, and we'll contain everyone else". The only issue with that thought when it comes to Tyreek Hill is that he will actually beat you by himself. With 8 games this season with 100+ receiving yards, Hill has shown up no matter the defense or scheme he's been up against. As the Dolphins' top receiver, his coverage will fall to L'Jarius Sneed who is enjoying a career year in his own right.
If the Chiefs' secondary isn't up to containing Hill, it will be a long day at the office for a Kansas City team looking to defend their Super Bowl title.
3. Mahomes and the offense need to take advantage of the weak Dolphins D-Line
This Miami defense is porous, to say the least. Given that they've already lost Bradley Chubb, Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jaelan Phillips, and Cam Goode on defense, the pass rush is thin for the Dolphins. The team is also expected to be without star cornerback Xavien Howard on Saturday.
While patch-working their defensive line with the likes of Justin Houston and Bruce Irvin in recent days, that likely won't be enough as neither of those players has seen meaningful snaps all season. This should give Mahomes and Co. more than enough time to slice up the Dolphins' secondary. Assuming Chiefs wide receivers are up to the task, Mahomes should be able to take advantage.
On the ground, Pacheco should be a force as well. Rushing for 66 yards in their Week 9 tilt, Pacheco should be counted on more on Saturday given the frozen conditions in Kansas City on Saturday night. Even as the 6th rushing defense in the league, they give up more (97 yards/game) than Pacheco's season average of 66.
With a gutted front line, this Miami defense won't be up to task to defend the run and the pass in front of what is sure to be a raucous home crowd in KC.
If the Chiefs can take care of the above they have a great chance of moving onto the divisional round in the playoffs.