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So Close: The Miami Dolphins 2020 Season in Review

Disappointment in 2020 Promises Big Gains in 2021

Dolphins 2020 Betting Record

Moneyline: 10-6

Point Spread: 11-5

Miami Dolphins 2020 Season in Review
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images/AFP

Total: 7-9

Coming into the 2019 season, nobody quite expected big things out of the Dolphins. They had the youngest roster in the league last year when they finished 5-11 under first-year head coach Brian Flores. In 2020, only the Jaguars had a younger team, and the Dolphins were poised to rely on a rookie QB in Tua Tagovailoa. As a result, the sportsbook predicted just six wins for them in 2020 and the NFL Betting odds listed Miami at 100-to-1 to win Super Bowl LV. While the Dolphins just missed out on the playoffs, they heavily exceeded expectations in Flores’s second year.

There were definitely growing pains for Tagovailoa which resulted in a little bit of Fitzmagic. As the national championship-winning quarterback from Alabama worked himself up to NFL speed, journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick started the first six games of the season. Tagovailoa would go on to make nine starts and compile an impressive 6-3 record in those games. While the QB situation grabbed headlines, Miami quietly had a very impressive defense to lean on. The Dolphins forced more turnovers than any other team in the league and allowed just 21.1 points per game. Overall, their 10-6 season was a very pleasant surprise which could entail big things in the future from this young group.

First Quarter

Moneyline: 1-3

Point Spread: 2-2

Total: 1-3

It wasn’t a great start to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s sixteenth NFL season as he threw three interceptions in a 21-11 loss to the Patriots in Week 1. Plus, Miami allowed the most rushing yards it would all season in the opener, as the Pats bludgeoned the Dolphins with 217 yards on 42 carries.

In Week 2, things weren’t much better on the defensive side of the ball. Miami allowed Bills QB Josh Allen to have a career day against them as he threw for 415 yards and four touchdowns. Even so, Miami covered the spread and lost by just three points as Fitzpatrick stabilized his play. Things came together with a Week 3 blowout win against the Jaguars, which marked Miami’s first of the year. The Dolphins dropped their Week 4 game to the Seahawks, which was no surprise, but they did manage to keep things competitive.

Grade: C+

Second Quarter

Moneyline: 4-0

Point Spread: 4-0

Total: Over-Under: 2-2

Seemingly out of nowhere, Miami rattled off four straight wins. They demolished the 49ers in Week 5, 43-17 and shut out the Jets 24-0 the following week. After a bye week, Flores announced Tagovailoa would be the starter in Week 8.

Miami didn’t miss a beat with Tagovailoa taking over the offense. The Dolphins beat two more NFC West teams with playoff ambitions in the Rams and the Cardinals in Tua’s first two starts. Tua threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in those games, while the Dolphins defense forced five turnovers to propel them to 5-3. At this point the Dolphins looked like they could make the playoffs, even in a tough AFC field.

Grade: A

Third Quarter

Moneyline: 3-1

Point Spread: 3-1

Total: Over-Under: 1-3

In Week 10, the Dolphins defense made things harsh for the eventual Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert. Miami held the Chargers QB to 187 passing yards en route to a fifth straight win. Meanwhile, Tua had still yet to throw an interception through four starts. But, that didn’t stop him from getting benched the next week against the Broncos.

Tua was indecisive, being sacked six times and completing only 11 of his 20 passes for 83 yards before Fitzpatrick took over. The Dolphins would go on to lose the game 20-13 but Flores would reiterate that Tua was the starting quarterback and the benching was simply a lesson for the young QB. An injury would prevent him from starting the next game as the Dolphins made it two for two on the season against a historically bad Jets team.

In Tagovailoa’s return in Week 13, he had his best game to date as he threw for 296 yards and a touchdown in a 19-7 win against the Bengals. The Dolphins were 8-4 and within striking distance of the playoffs at this point.

Grade: A-

Fourth Quarter

Moneyline: 2-2

Point Spread: 2-2

Total: 3-1

A game against the defending Super Bowl Champions loomed large on the schedule. The Dolphins covered the spread but weren’t able to overcome Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs as they fell 33-27 in Week 14. Tight end Mike Gesicki caught two touchdown passes from Tua in the loss and quietly had a very good year.

The next two weeks, the Dolphins dropped the struggling Patriots and Raiders to improve to 10-5 with just one game remaining. Miami’s playoff fate was in its own hands. If the Dolphins beat the Bills they’d finish 11-5 and cement a place in the AFC Playoffs. Even if they lost, a Colts, Ravens, or Browns loss would have ensured a playoff berth.

When it mattered most the Dolphins weren’t able to get it done and were blown out 56-26 by the resurgent Buffalo Bills, who put together an impressive 13-3 season. Tagovailoa set a career-high with 361 passing yards in the game, as a consolation. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, none of the other teams fighting for an AFC playoff spot lost that day. So, it was a disappointing end to a surprisingly good year for Miami.

Grade: B-

Divisional Record: 3-3

Conference Record: 7-5

Full Season Grade: A-

Looking Ahead to Next Season

Glaring Needs:

The Dolphins offense isn’t explosive enough and it showed at certain points throughout the season. Miami has a solid WR in Devante Parker but could use another number one level guy. Similarly, RB Myles Gaskin showed flashes but an upgrade is certainly in order.

Obvious Strengths:

Defense is what propelled the Dolphins to a 10-4 record in their last 14 games. The Dolphins defense had a takeaway in all 16 games, which is part of an impressive 22-game takeaway streak. This group should continue to get better with another season under coach Brian Flores. Linebackers Jerome Baker, Kyle Van Noy, and Andrew Van Ginkel all managed more than five sacks, and CB Xavien Howard tied a franchise record with 10 interceptions.

Predicted Record for 2021 Season: 9-7

Unless Miami has success in free agency or in the draft, it’s hard to see this offense getting much better. Granted, they do have a bunch of high draft selections, but the defense can’t overcome all of Miami’s shortcomings. I expect the Dolphins to be right on the playoff bubble, just like in 2020.

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