SITE: Dolphin Stadium
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Steve Tasker
SERIES: The Dolphins lead 13-12, including a 3-0 mark in the playoffs. Last year, the Chiefs and Dolphins played in Miami on a Friday night because of a potential hurricane over the weekend, with the Chiefs winning 30-20.
2006 rankings: Chiefs: offense 14th (9th rush, 17th pass); defense 13th (16th rush, 12th pass). Dolphins: offense 16th (24th rush, 10th pass); defense 4th (14th rush, 4th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins have to continue to feature the running game that showed signs of life with RB Ronnie Brown rushing for 157 yards in Chicago last weekend because they know the Chiefs' offense will attempt to ram it down their throats. Chiefs QB Damon Huard has 11 touchdowns and just one interception, but that's in large part because RB Larry Johnson has made his job easier by averaging 106.9 rushing yards in Huard's seven starts -- and a combined 449 the past three games. If Johnson is rumbling freely early on, it sets up the play-action to TE Tony Gonzalez that has been so effective in recent games. The key for Miami is to establish a good run-pass balance offensively, keep the game close and hope to steal the victory in the fourth quarter.
Chiefs: Are 14-4 when Johnson rushes for at least 100 yards. ... Gonzalez's 59 touchdown receptions are a franchise record. Dolphins: WR Chris Chambers has a combined 10 catches for 73 yards in the first halves of games and 23 for 284 yards and all four of his touchdowns in the second halves. ... TE Randy McMichael needs four receptions to break Bruce Hardy's franchise record of 256 catches by a tight end.
-- FS Greg Wesley remains truly questionable with a shoulder injury, but he was able to participate in some of the Thursday practice.
-- S Jarrad Page could get his first start and most extensive game time of his first NFL season if he has to replace injured FS Greg Wesley against Miami. Page has played mainly in situational defenses this year.
-- G Chris Bober is the likely starter at left guard (replacing Brian Waters) against Miami. However, coach Herm Edwards is playing coy with the possibility that John Welbourn, who played mostly guard in Philadelphia before moving to tackle upon joining the Chiefs in 2004, also could either start or play extensively there. Welbourn played both tackle positions last week against St. Louis in his first game back from an NFL suspension.
-- DE Tamba Hali, sidelined by a hip pointer for the second half of the win in St. Louis last week, worked out again Thursday and is considered probable for this week's Miami game.
-- Rookie DL Rodrique Wright began practice this week and has changed positions from tackle to end. The Dolphins have less than three weeks to decide to add him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve/non-football injury list. Wright underwent shoulder surgery after the draft and has since lost 20 pounds.
-- LB Zach Thomas, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday because of a migraine headache, participated fully Thursday and is ready to take on the Chiefs and punishing RB Larry Johnson. Thomas is expected to play in his 156th career game Sunday, the most by any Dolphins defender, passing Tim Bowens' 155.
-- DE Kevin Carter, who has never missed a game in his 12-year career, has also never scored a touchdown and is jealous of fellow defensive end Jason Taylor, who notched his sixth career touchdown with an interception return last week against the Bears. "He has a knack for scoring touchdowns. I don't know how he does it. None, never in my life. It's a sore subject," Carter screamed in jest.
-- QB Joey Harrington finally got his first win since joining the Dolphins with Sunday's victory over the Bears. He became the 21st quarterback to notch at least one win for the franchise.
-- WR Chris Chambers extended his consecutive game streak with at least one catch to 55 games, but he is still struggling in the early parts of games. Chambers had two catches for 11 yards in the first half against the Bears, and he also dropped two passes. He finished with five catches for 58 yards, including a game-securing 24-yard touchdown grab. Chambers has 17 catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns in the first three quarters, and 16 catches for 247 yards with four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
That list already includes Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters, who sustained a sprained knee in last week's win over St. Louis, and quarterback Trent Green, who for a second consecutive week will suit up and be the team's inactive third quarterback even though he's not been medically cleared to play.
Coach Herm Edwards on Thursday ruled out Johnson, the second-year player who sustained an ankle injury early in the win over the Rams. Sampson, the starter at right tackle, missed the St. Louis game with an ankle injury.
Replacing Sampson won't be anything new to veteran tackle Kyle Turley, just as replacing Waters won't be anything new to the two veterans who could play left guard -- Chris Bober or John Welbourn.
But jumping into the starting lineup will be a new experience for replacement linebacker Keyaron Fox, who will make his first NFL start after playing in 14 games over his previous two seasons in Kansas City.
"He did OK last week in having to play a lot for the first time," coach Herm Edwards said of Fox, who played in only two games last year before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.
"But there's a lot of mental anxiety involved when you go from playing 10 plays a game to 50. There's a big difference between being a starter and a role player. The mental part of playing down after down is hard on a young player. They misfire, they miscue and the computer gets overheated. There's a difference between being on the sideline wishing you could play, or playing eight plays and saying, 'I should be the starter.'
"Sometimes you get your wish and become the starter. And sometimes you get exposed. The mentally tough teams win when young players step up when they have to play. We're going to find out about a lot of our (young) guys this week."
Although the Dolphins are certainly familiar with Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard, they seem far more concerned with containing running back Larry Johnson.
Johnson, who is third in the NFL with 816 rushing yards, second in multipurpose yards (1,145) and second in touchdowns (11), has allowed Huard to be more effective while managing the game efficiently (11 touchdowns and one interception).
"(Johnson) has cutback ability, able to change directions. He's big, tough, strong and fast, so basically, all things you need to be a great running back, he's got," Dolphins defensive end Kevin Carter said. "If you can't stop the run, then you can't win in this league."
Unless of course, you're the undefeated Colts, who have the 32nd-ranked run defense but also have quarterback Peyton Manning to counteract that.
The Dolphins are ranked 14th in run defense, but they are fourth in yards per carry (allowing 3.4). Johnson gained 93 yards on 23 carries in his only meeting against the Dolphins last year, a 30-20 Kansas City victory at Dolphin Stadium.
"We pride ourselves on our front three guys, the guys that do all the grunt work, and we've got some good tacklers behind the D-line," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "It will be a good test for us."