Time to look ahead at Sunday's game in Kansas City against the Chiefs. But before we do, I just want to know - am I the only person who still thinks about this commercial whenever I the Dolphins play the Chiefs? Maybe it is just me - but that is a classic!
Anyways, let's take a look at some key questions about Sunday's battle at Arrowhead Stadium:
Can the Dolphins deal with Arrowhead?
Without a doubt, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is one of the toughest places to play. And that's even true when the Chiefs aren't very good. Sure, they are 1-6 at home this year, only knocking off Denver. But they played both the Bucs and Chargers to very close games and, really, should have knocked off the Chargers last week.
But even with the Chiefs being a 1-6 team, two things make Arrowhead very tough, especially this time of the year. First off, their fans are very loud and that stadium is built to hold in sound - much like the Orange Bowl was. This is going to make things difficult - whether it's hearing the plays being called into the helmet or making audibles and adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Hand signals and silent snap counts will definitely have to be used.
The second thing that could spell trouble for the Dolphins is the weather. Kansas City is usually in the mid to upper 30s this time of the year. But Sunday's forecast looks cold - very cold. The Weather Channel has Sunday's temperature in KC at 21 degrees for a high. And they are also speculating that it could be windy, with 15 to 20 mph gusts. So, in terms of how cold it'll feel, it could very well feel like it's in the single digits.
To put this into perspective, the Dolphins haven't played in a game colder than around 68 degrees this season. So this team is going to be tested in a way it has yet to be tested. And, historically, the Dolphins are just 3-6 in games played where the temperature is 25 degrees or lower.
Can the Dolphins contain Tony Gonzalez?
Even at the age of 32, Tony Gonzalez is the game's best receiving tight end. His 941 receiving yards ranks him 13th in the entire league and 1st among all tight ends. His 84 receptions is 7th in the league and his 8 touchdowns is tied for 6th (and yes, both totals are tops for TEs).
Just how often is Gonzalez looked to in the passing game. He's been targeted 133 times - which is 28.7% of the team's total pass attempts. And he's caught 63% of the passes that have been thrown his way. Clearly, the way to really hinder KC's offense is to take Gonzalez away from Tyler Thigpen.
The Dolphins, defensively, have been hot and cold against some of the game's most talented tight ends. They held Antonio Gates to just one catch for 12 yards and Todd Heap to just 3 catches for 29 yards. But on the flip side, Owen Daniels dominated, catching 4 passes for 70 yards in Miami's loss to Houston. Rookie John Carlson caught 5 passes for 54 yards when the Fins hosted Seattle. And Zach Miller had 4 catches for 67 yards when Oakland visited Miami.
So what kind of performance will we see on Sunday out of Miami's defense against Gonzalez? Will they play like they did against San Diego? Or will it be more like the game against Houston?
Will the Dolphins "pound the rock" this week?
With the weather expected to be very cold and potentially windy, it would seem like passing the ball might not be the best idea. What does that mean? PTR - Pound The Rock.
Kansas City isn't very good against the run, either. Their defensive line is particularly stout at the point of attack and, in my humble opinion, their only talented linebacker (and he's a very, very good one) is Derrick Johnson. That's probably why KC is ranked 30th in the NFL in defending the rush, surrendering 155 yards per game on the ground. And KC's 4.9 yards per carry against average is tied for the worst in the league. And this is despite KC holding LaDainian Tomlinson to just 39 yards on 15 carries last week.
As for the Dolphins' 2-headed running back monster - Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams - they could be in store for a heavy workload on Sunday. That is, if this Miami offensive line can prove that they can open up some holes. The injuries at the guard position have really hampered the OL's ability to run block. But Sunday will provide a good opportunity to build some confidence. And the good news is that both Ronnie and Ricky should be pretty fresh. In the last two weeks, Ronnie only has 29 touches and Ricky only has 21 touches. Ronnie, in particular, could be extra motivated (as if he needs it - the man runs like an angry sailor) since his selection to the Pro Bowl team over some other AFC running backs has created a stir in some circles.
When you consider the challenge that lies in front of this team in the next two weeks (playing at KC and at NYJ), running the ball is going to be critical. Can they get it going this week on the ground?
Can the Dolphins continue getting pressure on the QB?
After struggling for a little while generating any pressure on the opposing quarterback, the Dolphins have picked up 9 sacks in the last 2 games. A lot of that has to do with the unique blitz packages Paul Pasqualoni has been using - as well as the sudden emergence of Charlie Anderson as a pass-rushing specialist.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs allowed 31 sacks in their first 11 games before suddenly improving. And the offensive line's pass-protecting has been a key over the last 3 weeks. Against San Diego, Oakland, and Denver, the Chiefs have allowed just 2 sacks - combined. And that has allowed Tyler Thigpen, who is proving to be a promising QB prospect, time to find the open man.
Of course, like any QB, Thigpen struggles when under pressure. His completion percentage drops 14% when under pressure and his overall QB rating falls 16 points.
But will the Fins be able to get in the face of Thigpen consistently - something the Chiefs haven't allowed to happen recently?