Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Miami Dolphins.
When Last We Met
The Miami Dolphins were expected to play well last season, but the 10-6 record exceeded expectations, especially after starting 0-2.
They lost two of their last four games, which was enough to see them miss the playoffs in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills. NFL betting lines favored the Dolphins to miss the playoffs, but they were a little closer than expected.
Only narrowly missing out on the Wild-Card game, the Dolphins did well in what was a tough division. They weren’t expected to beat Buffalo and the sportsbook framed them as underdogs in both games. Despite Tom Brady no longer playing for the Patriots, any Bill Belichick team is also tough to get past.
Overall, the 2020 season for the Miami Dolphins had its usual ups and downs. Two of their six losses came to the Bills and the other losses came against the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos, and Chiefs. However, they scored quality wins against the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, and Raiders. Those betting online were able to secure generous odds when Miami won, so they were a profitable outfit.
To Miss the Playoffs (-155)
The Dolphins are expected to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, but it’s not because they don’t have enough talent.
It’s all circumstantial for the Dolphins, and although we hate the term “building” that’s exactly what this season is all about. Miami is a team on the improve and it’s going to take more than one season to enjoy the fruits of its labor.
Having made the playoffs only four times since 2000, we’re not surprised NFL playoff odds have the Dolphins at -155 to watch the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes.
There are two major factors to why the Dolphins will miss the playoffs; playing in a tough division and the lack of experience. Playing in the AFC East has never been easy, and despite the New York Jets offering some respite, beating Buffalo will be the hardest task.
The Bills don’t appear to be slowing down, so Miami will need to push for a Wild-Card spot and we don’t think they’re an 11-6-type team. Playing Buffalo twice in the first eight weeks could give Miami a reality check and two of its last three games are played on the road, which won’t help their cause.
Another thing going against the Dolphins is their youth. Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed glimpses of brilliance last season, but he also showed that he needed another two or three years to realize his potential. He doesn’t have Ryan Fitzpatrick pushing him in 2021, which could be to his detriment.
We think running back Myles Gaskin will be better in a couple of years and NFL draft pick Jaylen Waddle won’t have an immediate impact.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said the Texans have been linked to Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, who is unhappy with his contract. That could make a Deshaun Watson-for-Xavien Howard trade a possibility
h/t Bleacher Report pic.twitter.com/bJbCVJdH2h
Dolphin Nation (@Dolphin_Nation) July 26, 2021
The Dolphins are in a tricky position. They’re too good to be playing for a draft pick, but not yet good enough to make a deep playoff run. DB Xavien Howard has asked for a trade. If the Dolphins move Howard, their chances of making the playoffs are significantly reduced.
To Make the Playoffs (+125)
We pointed out the youthfulness of the Dolphins’ roster, but being young and inexperienced isn’t always a bad thing.
There is no mental scarring on this team and playoff demons don’t exist, so the confidence levels should be high. The addition of Waddle adds to the quality receiving corp, which includes DeVante Parker and Will Fuller V. However, Fuller is still serving a suspension he incurred with the Houston Texans.
Waddle is projected to be Miami Dolphins’ MVP, which are lofty expectations for a rookie.
“It’s admittedly a tall ask for a rookie wide receiver to come in immediately and be an X-factor within an offense, but Waddle — the No. 6 overall pick at the 2021 NFL draft — will likely be a key figure out of the gate,” CBS Sports’ Tyler Sullivan said. “Really, this has to do with the development of Tua Tagovailoa, who played with Waddle at Alabama. Instead of looking at the quarterback position at the 2021 draft following a rookie season by Tagovailoa that left much to be desired, the Dolphins elected to double down with him by adding weapons.”
Instead of Miami drafting another quarterback, management opted to make Tua more comfortable. Throwing to a familiar face should help and we’re not doubting his talent because he showed professionalism and natural talent at Alabama.
There is plenty of improvement to come from tight end Mike Gesicki. The 25-year-old out of Penn State had 53 receptions for 703 yards last season, and we’re expecting to see more from him.
Apart from one game last season (Week 17 against the Bills), the Miami defense was strong. Howard led the league with 10 interceptions and the cornerback will be hunting for more … wherever he plays.
Emmanuel Ogbah is another quality defensive star, so we believe Miami’s best chance of making the playoffs lies with the defensive team. Our NFL predictions put the Dolphins at either 10-7 or 11-6, which is right on the cusp of securing a playoff spot.
The defense allowed plenty of yards last season, but it made stops in the red zone and we’re expecting more of the same. Teams will be able to throw downfield for chunk plays, but if the Dolphins can limit the amount of touchdowns scored, they could be in for a successful season.
Percent of catchable passes 20+ yards down the field in 2020 (minimum of 25 attempts)
2. Aaron Rodgers (70.8%)
3. Tua Tagovailoa (69.2%)
George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) July 23, 2021
The big question is how far can the offense take them. Tua needs to go to another level and he needs his receivers to come with him. Scoring 42 touchdowns isn’t enough, especially compared to the Bills 60, so that’s an area where the Dolphins could improve significantly.
Head coach Brian Flores is a good leader and if he gets this Miami Dolphins team believing in themselves, they are good enough to cause an upset in NFL betting markets.
Flores also has knowledge of the Patriots, having served as the assistant coach from 2008-16. It didn’t show in Week One last season, but Flores was able to make adjustments and defeat the Patriots 22-12 in Week 15. It’s little things like that which can make the difference between winning and losing, so having Flores as the head coach adds to the Dolphins’ appeal.
To Win the AFC East (+300)
We give the Miami Dolphins a 21.8% chance of winning the AFC East. If every team was equal they would have a 25% chance, so they will need to exceed expectations.
However, NFL division odds have the Dolphins on the second line of betting at +300, so they’ll be right in the mix. The Buffalo Bills are the warm favorites at -150 and they are the biggest obstacle for Miami.
If the Bills don’t live up to expectations, the Dolphins are right in the hunt. We don’t see the New England Patriots as a huge threat, especially with Cam Newton at the quarterback position. The only other team in the AFC East is the New York Jets, who are +2000 to win.
Winning the division isn’t out of reach for Miami and the head-to-head matchup against Buffalo will be telling. The Dolphins play Buffalo twice and it should have a massive impact on the AFC East standings. Miami was unable to beat Buffalo in two games last season and it cost them a chance of winning the division and making the Wild Card game.
Coming out of the gates quickly is important. The Dolphins play New England away from home in Week One before facing Buffalo at Hard Rock Stadium in Week Two, so going 2-0 would be a huge boost. Following the Bills game are two away games against the Raiders and Buccaneers, so Miami needs to avoid falling in an early hole.
If it can establish a 4-1 record from the first five games, they could take some catching in the AFC East.
To Win the AFC (+1600)
Winning the AFC is beyond most teams, and although the odds aren’t in favor of the Dolphins, bookmakers are respecting their chances.
NFL conference odds have the Dolphins at +1600 to win the AFC, behind hot favorites Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Given the odds available, bettors are getting value for money with the Dolphins.
For Miami to win the AFC, we believe it needs to win the AFC East. If that materializes, the Dolphins are good enough to win playoff games and make a run for the division title. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially for a team that has a wealth of young talent. It requires Tua Tagovailoa to have an excellent sophomore year and his wide receivers to beat defenders and get downfield. However, they are young legs and there will be no excuses.
Teams like the Chiefs and Browns could fail to live up to expectations. Kansas City has been on top for a few years now and it’s never easy to keep up that level of play. A team like the Dolphins could put pressure on the well-fancied NFL teams and the AFC conference championship is there for the taking.
To Win the Super Bowl (+2500)
The Miami Dolphins have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than most teams. They are currently on the 12th line of Super Bowl betting markets and there is plenty of respect coming their way.
Given division rivals Buffalo are +1200, bettors get value Super Bowl odds for Miami. If you look at the season purely based on numbers, the Dolphins have a 3.2% chance of winning Super Bowl LVI. It’s the same chance of winning as the New England Patriots, who we don’t think will make it out of the AFC East.
Even if the Dolphins don’t win their division but do enough for a Wild Card spot, the odds will firm considerably. We expect bookmakers to have Miami at around +1200 if they make the playoffs, so bettors get value.
Therefore, value is with the Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl. Conceivably, if the Super Bowl was played out 100 times, Miami would win three on average. With the current roster and team projection, we wouldn’t overlook the Dolphins.