The Kansas City Chiefs will head to Germany this weekend for a big-time matchup against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday morning.
Here are five things to keep in mind heading into game day.
1. Here’s a look at the final injury report for both teams.
The Chiefs will be without tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness) on Sunday after the team elected that it would be best if he remained in Kansas City to recover. Kansas City also listed linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (lower back) and wide receiver Richie James (knee) as “Questionable” for the game. James, who hasn’t played since Week 2, remains on Injured Reserve and would need to be activated in order to play.
As for the Dolphins, they listed two players as “Out” for Sunday (offensive lineman Rob Hunt and safety Brandon Jones) and eight players as “Questionable,” including left tackle Terron Armstead (knee), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), center Connor Williams (groin) and wide receiver Braxton Berrios (hamstring).
Hunt is a significant loss for Miami considering that he’s the Dolphins’ starting right guard. This will mark the first game that he has ever missed in his career. Williams and Armstead, meanwhile, are both starters for Miami who have missed time in recent weeks. Berrios, who appeared on the injury report mid-week with a hamstring issue, is a contributor to Miami’s offense (20 catches for 194 yards and one touchdown) and has the second-best kickoff return average (24.6 yards) of any player in the league.
Lastly, Howard – one of the top corners in the NFL – has not played since Week 6.
2. Nobody has gotten rid of the football quicker than Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this season.
The Dolphins’ offense currently leads the NFL in numerous categories, including points-per-game (33.9 points) and yards-per-game (453.3 yards), due in large part to the performance of Tagovailoa, who leads the league in passing yards (2,416), passing touchdowns (18) and passer rating (108.8).
Tagovailoa’s success this season has been predicated on his quick release, which is by far the fastest of any quarterback in the NFL. In fact, Tagovailoa is getting rid of the football in just 2.28 seconds on average – by far the quickest of any passer in the league this season – and on more than 62 percent of his passes, Tagovailoa has thrown the ball in fewer than 2.5 seconds . Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus’ grading metrics, Tagovailoa is ranked as the top passer in the NFL this season on throws of fewer than 2.5 seconds.
That quick release time is directly correlated to the fact that Tagovailoa has been the least-pressured quarterback in the NFL this year. Specifically, Tagovailoa has only been pressured on 21 percent of his dropbacks this year, but – for what it’s worth – he has struggled when under pressure. Tagovailoa has completed less than 40 percent of his passes when under pressure this year, throwing two interceptions.
With all of this in mind, it will be critical for the Chiefs’ defense to disrupt Tagovailoa’s rhythm on Sunday. That can be achieved – among other things – by successfully covering his first read and knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage, which Kansas City has excelled at so far this season.
“They’re very rhythm-based. [They want to get] the ball out on time,” said defensive lineman Charles Omenihu. “If you can throw that off, it gives a chance for the defense to dictate how things are going to go.”
Furthermore, as much attention as Miami’s passing game has garnered, any attempt to throw off the Dolphins’ rhythm must begin with stopping their top-ranked running game. Miami leads the NFL in total rushing yards (1,214), rushing touchdowns (16) and average yards-per-rush (5.9), and because of that viable threat, the Dolphins have tallied the third-most passing attempts off play-action ( 64) of any team in the league.
“This team has a lot of play-action rhythm passing. Everybody up front has to at least respect that it could be a run, and then, boom, all of the sudden, it’s a pass play and he’s getting the ball out really quick ,” said Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “We have to start there. If there is a way [to] get the game one-dimensional, then we have the chance to [disrupt their offensive rhythm].”