The Dolphins tore everything down during the 2018 season and the 2019 off-season, and they already completed their turnaround in two short seasons. Miami had a five-win improvement in 2020 and they had their first winning season since 2016 with a 10-6 record (11-5 ATS). They started the season with a 1-3 mark but they ran off a six-game winning streak in Weeks 4-10, and they were the team to officially eliminate the Patriots from the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins proved they were way ahead of schedule to being AFC contenders, but the ending of 2020 still stung for the franchise. Miami became the first team to miss the playoffs (-550) with 10 wins since the Jets did it back in 2015, a team that Ryan Fitzpatrick also led.
HC Brian Flores orchestrated one of the best defenses in the league with the Dolphins allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (21.1). Miami’s offense averaged the 15th-most points per game (25.3), which helped the Dolphins to finish 9-7 toward unders last season. Miami finished 3-4 in one-score contests while they finished 4-1 in games decided by three scores or more, which helped them to the 11th-best point differential (+66). The only game they lost by three scores or more happened to come in their 56-26 loss to the Bills in the season finale, which kept them out of the playoffs.
Miami’s 2021 win total (9.5) climbed by a massive four wins after the Dolphins nearly reached the playoffs last season. The Dolphins cruised past their 2020 win total by 4.5 victories and they passed their total with their sixth win of the season over the Chargers in Week 10. Entering this season, I have the Dolphins power rated as the 13th-best team in the NFL (+3500 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the sixth-best team in the AFC (+1600 to win the conference), and as the second-best team in the AFC East (+310).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|1||@New England Patriots||+2.5||4:25|
|3||@Las Vegas Raiders||PK||4:05|
|5||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+7.5||1|
|6||Jacksonville Jaguars (London)||-1.5||9:30|
|10||Baltimore Ravens||+3||8:20 (Thurs)|
|11||@New York Jets||-3||1|
|13||New York Giants||-3.5||1|
|15||New York Jets||-6.5||TBD|
|16||@New Orleans Saints||+3.5||8:15 (Mon)|
|18||New England Patriots||-2.5||1|
The Dolphins will face the fourth-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football) and the easiest schedule in the AFC East. Miami also has just two primetime games this season despite its win total sitting at nine wins entering the season. The Dolphins won’t leave Miami for four straight weeks in Weeks 12-15, which coincides with their easiest stretch of games. It actually starts with a road game against the Jets in Week 11 before they take on the Panthers, Giants, and Jets with a bye in the mix in Week 14.
The Dolphins have gauntlets to start and end the season, which will likely determine if they reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They open the season with matchups against the Patriots (Week 1), Bills (Week 2), Colts (Week 4), and Bucs (Week 5) and they end the year with games against the Saints (Week 16), Titans (Week 17), and Patriots (Week 18). They did get a bit unlucky with two matchups against teams coming off byes and they’ll come in back-to-back weeks against the Falcons and Bills in Weeks 7-8. Miami’s home showdown with the Falcons will also come the week after they play across the pond in London against the Jaguars — the Falcons will get some major betting steam that week.
Key Off-season Moves
|Will Fuller (WR)||Jaylen Waddle (WR)||Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB, Was)|
|Jacoby Brissett (QB)||Jaelan Phillips (DE)||Matt Breida (RB, Buf)|
|Malcolm Brown (RB)||Jevon Holland (S)||Julien Davenport (OT, Ind)|
|D.J. Fluker (OG)||Liam Eichenberg (OT)||Ted Karras (C, NE)|
|Matt Skura (C)||Hunter Long (TE)||Shaq Lawson (DE, Hou)|
|Benardrick McKinney (LB)||Davon Godchaux (DT, NE)|
|Justin Coleman (CB)||Kyle Van Noy (LB, NE)|
|John Jenkins (DT)||Kamu Grugier-Hill (OLB, Hou)|
|Jason McCourty (DB)||Bobby McCain (CB, Was)|
|Cethan Carter (TE)||Matt Breida (RB, Buf)|
|Adam Butler (DT)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9.5 (+105/-125)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 9 (-121) in late March to 9.5 (+105)
Super Bowl: +2500 in early February to +3500
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Dolphins easily eclipsed their season win total last season by 3.5 victories so Miami is now 2-0 toward the over on their win totals under HC Brian Flores — the Dolphins have topped their win total in three straight seasons. The Miami Dolphins are quickly knocking on the door to be contenders in the AFC after tearing everything down in 2018-19. Flores has managed an incredible 15-17 record despite GM Chris Grier totally rebuilding the Dolphins roster over the last three years.
Miami had another strong off-season, which started when they added stud WR Will Fuller while reshuffling the rest of their roster in free agency. The Dolphins made their major noise in the draft, using five picks inside the top-81 picks to load up on young, cheap talent. WR Jaylen Waddle (No. 6) and DE Jaelan Phillips (No. 18) headlined a group that also included S Jevon Holland (No. 36), OT Liam Eichenberg (No. 42), and TE Hunter Long (No. 81).
The Dolphins have accumulated a massive amount of talent in a short amount of time, and the only potential major hole they have on their roster could be at quarterback. An over bet with Miami is a vote of confidence for second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, whom the Dolphins gave their own vote of confidence to by letting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and by loading up on offensive talent to surround their young quarterback. Tua will have to weather a difficult opening stretch to the season with his new weapons before Miami’s schedule gets significantly easier in the second half of the season.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Dolphins have been darlings for gamblers since the second half of the 2019 season with a whopping 20 covers in their last 28 games (71.4%). Miami has overachieved with Flores through his first two seasons but expectations are soaring for the Dolphins heading into the third year of their rebuild. The Dolphins won’t be sneaking up on any opponents after being underdogs in 25 of their last 32 games, and we’ll see how this team handles some expectations this season.
Let’s stop beating around the bush, though. Tua’s performance in Year Two will ultimately determine Miami's fate in 2021. We began the off-season speculating if the Dolphins would make a trade for Deshaun Watson or if they’d use a first-round to pick one of the top-five quarterback prospects in this year’s draft. Instead, we learned the Dolphins are all-in on Tua for at least the 2021 season.
Tagovailoa went 6-3 in his nine starts as a rookie, but he did little to help the Dolphins to six victories. He averaged just 6.3 YPA while averaging just 1.2 TD passes and 181.4 passing yards per game. Tua’s receiving corps will be much improved compared to the skeleton crew he finished the 2020 season with, and he’ll also be nearly two years removed from his devastating hip injury from November 2019. He also admitted this spring that he didn’t know Miami’s playbook well enough as a rookie and that he’s much more comfortable in Year Two. The Dolphins granted Tua a pass for his play as a rookie with their off-season moves, but he won’t have any excuses for lowly play in his second season.
Notable Player Props
Tua Tagovailoa: passing yards (4000.5), passing TDs (24.5), MVP (+4000), most passing yards (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (3685), passing TDs (24)
Best-Case Scenario: Tua’s hip is much healthier in 2021 and he makes a huge second-year leap with a significantly improved receiving corps and with a playbook catered to his strengths.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Tua Time in South Florida is running short after he fails to show significant improvement in Year Two even with a bunch of off-season decisions catered toward improving his play.
Myles Gaskin: rushing yards (750.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (745)
Best-Case Scenario: Gaskin remains locked in as the team’s top back after the Dolphins remained awfully quiet at the position this off-season and he stays healthy enough to easily clear his totals.
Worst-Case-Scenario: The Dolphins show no loyalty to Gaskin after he won the job on merit in 2020, and he splits up the work with the likes of Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown.
Jaylen Waddle: receiving yards (750.5), receiving TDs (5), OROY (+1800)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (825), receiving TDs (5)
Best-Case Scenario: Waddle immediately hits it off with his former college QB Tua Tagovailoa, and Tua improves significantly as a deep passer to take advantage of Waddle’s speed.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Waddle struggles to stand out in a suddenly loaded Dolphins’ receiving corps with Will Fuller, DeVante Parker, and Mike Gesicki. Tua also fails to take a significant step forward, which hurts Waddle and the rest of these receivers.
Will Fuller: receiving yards (875.5), most receiving yards (+4000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (790)
Best-Case Scenario: Fuller’s breakout 2020 campaign was no fluke and he remains among the league’s top WRs even with more target competition and a downgrade at quarterback.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Fuller goes from being the clear top receiver for Deshaun Watson in Houston to fighting for weekly targets from Tua Tagovailoa in a crowded receiving corps in Miami.
DeVante Parker: receiving yards (810.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (790)
- Best-Case Scenario: Parker goes from being the last Dolphins receiver drafted to being the team leader in target share as he becomes Tua Tagovailoa’s security blanket on the perimeter.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Parker’s breakout season in 2019 looks more and more like a mini-mirage as he struggles to differentiate himself in a suddenly loaded receiving corps with an underperforming second-year quarterback.
Mike Gesicki: receiving yards (685.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (660)
- Best-Case Scenario: Even with an influx of talent at receiver, Gesicki remains a key cog in their passing attack and he earns himself a major pay raise when he hits free agency next off-season.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Gesicki is phased out of the offense a bit in his fourth and final year in Miami after they drafted Hunter Long and Jaylen Waddle and after they signed Will Fuller in the off-season.
Mike Gesicki under 675.5 receiving yards (-110, BetMGM). Risk one unit to win .91 units — Gesicki has seen the sixth-most TE targets in the last two seasons with 174, but his path to maintaining his 5.6 targets per game in that span got a lot tougher this off-season. Gesicki and DeVante Parker were the only two Dolphins to top 55+ targets last season, but he could potentially be the #4 option in this passing attack after the Dolphins signed Will Fuller and drafted Jaylen Waddle at No. 6. Miami also drafted his potential successor at the position in the third round in Hunter Long, who could carve out a role at some point this season. Gesicki has been a complete fade for me in fantasy drafts with his increased competition for targets and with Tua taking over at quarterback, and I’m betting he goes under his receiving yards total.
Jaelan Phillips to win AP Defensive Rookie of the Year (+900, FanDuel, May 14). Risk half a unit to win 4.5 units — The Dolphins finished with the 10th-most sacks last season without an individual player reaching double-digit sacks. Phillips has the potential to be the team’s top pass rusher on a rising defense that’s loaded with talent at all three levels, which was the exact formula that propelled Chase Young to win the award last season.
Miami Dolphins under 9.5 wins (-125, DraftKings) — The race for second place in the AFC East is going to be tight between the Dolphins and the Patriots, and their games to open and to close the season will have huge playoff and win total implications for both teams. I’m worried the Dolphins’ defense could face some regression this season after they forced a league-high 29 takeaways, which resulted in a +9 turnover differential. At the end of the day, though, Tua Tagovailoa’s performance is going to determine the fate of this team in 2021. He should take a step forward in his development this season, but I don’t think it will be a big enough leap to get the Dolphins back to double-digit victories for a second straight season.