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Chiefs vs. Dolphins: Five Things to Watch

Some stats and storylines to keep in mind heading into Sunday’s game

The Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) and Miami Dolphins (6-8) meet Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium with the AFC West title on the line.

A win guarantees the Chiefs a second-straight division title, something they've never done in franchise history. It also guarantees the Chiefs a home playoff game, which would be a nice early Christmas present for everyone.

"I think there's got to be an urgency from everybody," Chiefs' coach Andy Reid said this week. "There has to be an urgency all the way around – you aren't guaranteed of anything. So, every game becomes the most important game. If it wasn't before it surely is now. We put ourselves in this position, so we have to make sure we stay focused and that's how I look at it."

Coming off two huge back-to-back division wins over the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs would be earning their fourth playoff berth in five years under Andy Reid with a win on Sunday.

And while some may look at the Dolphins' current 6-8 record and the fact that they've lost six of their last eight and feel comfortable, it's important to remember that this is also the same Dolphins' team that went out and beat the New England Patriots two weeks ago.

The Dolphins are also not completely out of the playoff picture, although they don't control their own path—they'll need some help.

But nonetheless, the Chiefs have their work cut out for them on Sunday.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday during Chiefs-Dolphins:

1. Can the Chiefs control the Dolphins' best front seven player…because he's a handful

Ndamukong Suh—the former Nebraska Cornhusker and Detroit Lion—has been one of the best in the league since he entered the league as the No. 2 overall pick back in 2010. He's a four-time first-team All-Pro and he's having another solid season this year.

According to our friends over at Pro Football Focus, Suh has 28 quarterback hurries this season and ranks as the second-best run defending defensive lineman in the league. He's a 6-feet-4-inch-tall, 305-pound monster up front, and he not only requires attention. He demands it.

Suh, who went to the same high school as Chiefs' cornerback Kenneth Acker and actually played for Acker's dad, who was the coach, will spend the majority of his time lined up between Zach Fulton and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and he'll occasionally come off the edge in passing situations.

"Pretty powerful guy," Duvernay-Tardif said this week of Suh. "He's pretty athletic and a good player. One of the keys this week is to dominate the line of scrimmage if we want to get the run game going like in the past, so it's a good challenge.

"I'm just going to do my thing, study film and prepare the best I can and come out with a mindset."

If the Chiefs can limit Suh's effectiveness, that'll go a long way in getting running back Kareem Hunt—the AFC's only rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl, going again in this one. Over the last two weeks, Hunt has been fantastic, racking up more than 340 yards of total offense and finding the end zone three times.

"I think the mentality was more let's go as hard as we can, as fast as we can," Duvernay-Tardif said of the last couple of games. "It might not always be pretty, but we're going to get the job done."

The Chiefs are 6-0 this year when Hunt has at least 100 yards rushing, and limiting Suh's disruptiveness up front will be a key to getting that going again this week.

2. Can the Chiefs tackle well in space against Dolphins' receiver Jarvis Landry?

Dolphins' fourth-year receiver Jarvis Landry has been targeted 143 times this season, which ranks as the third-most in the league. The two-time Pro Bowler has turned all those targets into 98 receptions for 844 yards and eight touchdowns.

"The Dolphins do a good job of changing it up and motioning [Landry] around," Chiefs' defensive coordinator Bob Sutton explained. "He's a highly competitive guy—a tough guy. He mixes it up and will make any catch you need. From afar, he really looks like he understands pass concepts and leverages.

"I think you have an appreciation for the guy. You can tell he works at his craft."

Most of Landry's damage has been across the middle, where he's caught 55 of his 98 passes. But hasn't necessarily a deep threat as he has just three receptions of more than 20 yards this season, which is a bit surprising considering the number of targets. He's often moved around and used as the safety blanket for quarterback Jay Cutler.

The Chiefs' defensive backs will need to tackle well in space on a number of passes that will be undoubtedly thrown to Landry across the middle on little crossers and in-cutting routes.

3. Can the Chiefs win the third-down battle?

Led by quarterback Jay Cutler, the Dolphins' offense ranks 31st in the league on third down, converting just 32.6 percent of their opportunities.

When the Dolphins signed Cutler, who at the time had semi-retired and was getting into television broadcasting—ala Tony Romo, following the season-ending injury to then-starter Ryan Tannehill, the connection with Cutler to new Dolphins' head coach Adam Gase was something that gave their fans hope.

They had spent time together with the Denver Broncos with Gase as an offensive assistant coach during some of Cutler's best years, but it hasn't necessarily been the reunion they were hoping for when they began this journey.

Cutler—the notorious gunslinger, has struggled for much of the year, tossing 18 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, and he's struggled mightily when facing pressure—with a quarterback rating of just 59.4.

That said, there are few quarterbacks in the league with the natural arm talent of Cutler, who flashed that ability in his performance in their win over the Patriots two weeks ago—going 25 of 38 for 263 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

For the Chiefs, getting pressure—particularly on third down—has been the name of the game over the past two weeks against the Raiders and Chargers. They've managed 21 quarterback hurries and 5 sacks over that time, and that's a main reason that guys like cornerback Marcus Peters, who was recently named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, was able to snag a pair of interceptions last Saturday night against a red-hot Philip Rivers and company.

The ability for the Chiefs' defense to get the Dolphins into third-and medium-to long's, should go a long way in getting the Arrowhead Stadium involved as well.

This entire year, the Chiefs haven't allowed a team to score more than 20 points at Arrowhead, despite facing two of the league's top 10 scoring offenses there in the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 2, 31.3 ppg), and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 9, 24.6 ppg).

The Chiefs have also won 17 of their last 21 at Arrowhead Stadium.

On the flip side, the Dolphins' defense ranks as one of the best in the league on third down—holding opposing offenses to converting just 35.4 percent of their third-down opportunities.

It's something coach Reid spoke about this week.

"They are very good on third down, very good third-down defense," Reid noted. "[Suh] is a very powerful man and he's also smart. The whole defense wants to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. So, we take that into account."

4. The Chiefs' offense has a chance at some history

The Chiefs' key offensive playmakers have a chance to put themselves in rarified air—doing something that's only ever been done one other time in NFL history, and that's to have a 1,000-yard rusher, a 1,000-yard receiver, a 1,000-yard tight end, and a 4,000-yard passer.

The 1981 San Diego Chargers are the only team to currently have ever done that—with quarterback Dan Fouts, running back Chuck Muncie, receiver Charlie Joiner, and tight end Kellen Winslow.

Just how close are the Chiefs to hitting all of those milestones in the same season?

Hunt already has more than 1,000 yards rushing. Tyreek Hill already has more than 1,000 yards receiving. Travis Kelce is just nine yards short of 1,000, and Alex Smith needs 262 yards passing to hit 4,000 for the year. Smith is averaging 267 a game this season.

It's not out of the question that the Chiefs could accomplish that feat on Sunday.

5. Will the weather play a factor? The Chiefs have been pretty lucky with the weather so far this season, but they're finally going to have a cold one on Sunday—with forecasts predicting temperatures in the low 30s and upper 20s for the game.

There's even a slight chance of snow, which would be fitting on the morning of Christmas Eve, but it'll be the first time one key Chiefs' player will play in such cold conditions.

"This will be the coldest game [Harrison] Butker ever kicked in," Chiefs' special teams coordinator Dave Toub explained of his rookie kicker, who grew up in the Southeast. "We're going to see how he does. He was kicking down at Georgia Tech, not a lot of cold days down there."

Toub said they'd get Butker plenty of chances to kick outside this week.

"Every time we come inside (to practice), we go outside and kick," Toub said. "We go outside and kick, we punt, we do our drills out there. We try to get out as much as we can. That's important for special teams, you've got to get outside."

"We've had a lot of practices that have been really cold so it shouldn't be an issue," Butker noted.

"The thing about him that we do now is that he has a strong leg, so the ball is going to fly," Toub added. "The cold weather really not going to affect him too much. It will affect him but not as much as other guys."

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