Dolphins fighting injuries, elements, Chiefs in wild-card game

All the Miami Dolphins had to do was protect a fourth-quarter lead in the season finale and they could have stayed in South Florida and played an AFC wild-card game in temperatures near 80 degrees.

Instead, the Dolphins saw the lead get away and packed up portable heaters, parkas, gloves and a game plan for how to deal with the elements and a hostile crowd when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night in expected single-digit, frigid weather that will follow a projected significant snowfall in the days prior.

The forecast for a high of 9 degrees in Kansas City on Saturday will certainly be lower with kickoff scheduled for night time. The projected low is minus-5.

Seems like a big advantage for the Chiefs, but coach Andy Reid wants no part of such chatter.

"You can't bank on that. That's where you get into trouble," Reid told reporters Tuesday. "We're not having a snowball fight."

The third-seeded Chiefs (11-6) have thrived on being at home in the postseason during the Reid/Patrick Mahomes era.

Throwing in weather that's more fit for a luge or Nordic skiing event won't make things any easier for the sixth-seeded Dolphins (11-6).

Miami coach Mike McDaniel said his club will be ready to handle the conditions -- whether cold or very, very cold.

"If we're playing in any playoff game that isn't at home, it probably will be cold," McDaniel said. "It will be the same for both teams. For us and for the individuals in the locker room, I know they will not use that as an excuse."

Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe, a Pennsylvania native, pointed out that NFL players come from all over the nation and have dealt with unfavorable conditions throughout their careers.

"I don't think it means that we are soft or scared of the elements, just because the weather is better down here," Smythe said of Miami. "The guys in that locker room, obviously we come from all over, too. It's not like we all lived here in Miami our entire lives. We've dealt with elements before."

Another big issue for Miami to overcome is a plethora of injuries to the defensive side of the ball. The Dolphins lost linebackers Jerome Baker (wrist), Andrew Van Ginkel (foot) and Cameron Goode (knee) for the season on Sunday in their 21-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

They previously lost two other linebackers, star Bradley Chubb (ACL) and rising star Jaelan Phillips (Achilles) to season-ending injuries. Cornerback Xavien Howard (foot) also will be sidelined for the Saturday game.

Miami signed three veteran pass rushers on Tuesday to address the shortage -- Justin Houston, Bruce Irvin and Malik Reed.

In addition, three-time Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram (58.5 sacks), who didn't play in a game for Miami until Dec. 24, is now a starting outside linebacker.

That could make it tough to slow down Mahomes, who is 10-2 with three Super Bowl appearances (two victories) over the past four postseasons.

The Chiefs weren't as ferocious as recent seasons, as they were just 5-5 after a 6-1 start. But Mahomes thrives in the postseason spotlight, and star defensive end Chris Jones is looking to finish the season with a bang.

Jones engaged in a contentious holdout prior to the season and even missed the season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions. He acknowledged Tuesday that Saturday could be the final time he plays in a Chiefs' uniform in Kansas City.

"Most importantly, we have a game to play," said Jones, who had 10.5 sacks this season. "We want to make a deep run in the playoffs. If it is my last season, we've got to make it worthwhile."

Kansas City ranks second in scoring defense at 17.3 points per game and total defense at 289.9 yards per contest. The Dolphins are in second in scoring offense at 29.2 points per game and lead in total offense (401.3).

Saturday marks the first time that star Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill (119 catches, 1,799 yards, 13 scores) will play in Kansas City since the Chiefs traded him to Miami after the 2021 season.

Hill has been bothered by ankle and quad injuries and was limited in practice all week. Miami listed four other players as questionable for Saturday: running back Raheem Mostert (knee, ankle), receiver Jaylen Waddle (ankle) and safeties DeShon Elliott (calf) and Jevon Holland (both knees).

The Chiefs ruled out offensive tackle Wanya Morris (concussion) while listing receivers Justyn Ross (hamstring) and Kadarius Toney (hip, ankle) as questionable.

The Chiefs beat the Dolphins 21-14 on Nov. 5 in Frankfurt, Germany.

--Field Level Media

Final1st2nd3rd4thScore
Kansas City ChiefsChiefs793726
Miami DolphinsDolphins07007
Kansas City
Passing:Patrick Mahomes 23/41 (262 YDS)
Rushing:Isiah Pacheco 24 CAR (89 YDS)
Receiving:Rashee Rice 8 REC (130 YDS)
Miami
Passing:Tua Tagovailoa 20/39 (199 YDS)
Rushing:Raheem Mostert 8 CAR (33 YDS)
Receiving:Tyreek Hill 5 REC (62 YDS)
Season Series
Kansas CityStatsMiami
1-0Vs0-1
21Points14
3Touchdowns2
0/0Field Goals0/0
20/30 (174 yd.)Passing21/34 (175 yd.)
24 CAR (93 yd.)Rushing21 CAR (117 yd.)