Chiefs have clear playoff road, Dolphins need plenty of help
By DAVE SKRETTA
Dec. 21, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs head into their regular-season home finale against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday with a playoff situation that is straightforward and favorable.
They're the AFC West champs if they win. Or if the Chargers lose to the Jets.
The Dolphins? Their path to the postseason is meandering and unlikely, a convoluted sequence of no fewer than seven dominoes that must topple perfectly for them to snag an AFC wild-card spot.
None of which matters if they don't beat the Chiefs on Sunday.
"We just want to win a game. That's what we're looking forward to," said Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake, who has flourished down the stretch. "We're trying to go up to play a great Kansas City team in a great environment with great fans, so we're just trying to go get a tough win."
The Dolphins (6-8) have proven they can play with the best during their rollercoaster season, never more evident than in their victory over the Patriots a couple of weeks ago.
"Anybody in the situation that we're in, in the NFL, you look back at some games, 'You should've won this. Felt like we should've won that,'" Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler said. "It's not that case. We made a bed; we've got to keep working and look toward Kansas City right now."
The Chiefs (8-6) have piggybacked a four-game losing streak with wins over the Raiders and Chargers to seize control of their division. And while it's not a must-win game against Miami, they would rather celebrate consecutive division titles for the first time in franchise history in front of their own fans, and then rest their key players in their regular-season finale at Denver.
After all, they've gone through enough stress this season.
There was the season-ending injury to star safety Eric Berry, other injuries on both sides of the ball and the antics by star cornerback Marcus Peters that earned him a suspension.
There was the four-game skid, part of a longer stretch in which they lost six of seven, and the surprising decision by coach Andy Reid to hand over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
But after squandering a 5-0 start, the Chiefs are still in a desirable situation as their season hits the homestretch, needing just a win over the Dolphins to ensure a postseason spot.
"We've put ourselves in a good position," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "From day one, all the goals you set out, the first one is make the playoffs and win the division. That is what it starts with. We are in a situation to do that and we need to go take care of business."
As the Dolphins visit Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since 2011, here's what to know:
SUH YOU: Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamakung Suh was passed over for the Pro Bowl this week, a slight that caught the attention of coach Adam Gase. "Every team we play there are two to three guys on him. I don't really understand that one," Gase said. "I know we haven't won enough games this year, but to me that guy should be penciled in before they even start voting."
ANOTHER SNUB: Smith was also passed over for the Pro Bowl despite leading the NFL in quarterback rating, setting career bests in yards and touchdown passes, and throwing just five interceptions despite playing with a suspect wide receiver group. "Listen," Reid said, "I'm a big fan of his, so I would tell you sure, I thought he should have been in. But that's neither here nor there. He's not."
ROAD WOES: The Dolphins' playoff situation would be a lot rosier if they had played better on the road this season. They are 4-3 at home but just 2-5 away from Miami, including losses to the Panthers, Ravens and Patriots during a five-game losing streak. "
SPEAKING OF THE ROAD: Even though the Dolphins haven't visited Arrowhead Stadium in six years, Gase knows how intimidating it can be. He was an assistant for AFC West-rival Denver from 2009-14, making more than one visit to the world record-holder for loudest outdoor sports stadium. "It's loud," he said. "It's a great environment, one of my favorite to go to. Those fans are into it. It's hard to hear. When it becomes a tight game, they try to affect the other team."
HAPPY HUNTING: Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt has run for 1,201 yards, trailing Steelers star Le'Veon Bell by 21 yards for the league lead. The third-round pick out of Toledo, who earned a Pro Bowl nod this week, is also coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. "I just go out there and play football every game and really don't look at the big picture," he said. "Just go out there and try to control what I can control and make plays, and good things happen when you do that."