Miami Dolphins 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Dave Tuley: The Dolphins broke from the gate fast last year with wins over the Patriots, Ravens and Bills to take the early lead in the AFC East. However, the win over Buffalo was controversial. The Dolphins received criticism for QB Tua Tagovailoa not being removed from the game after suffering an apparent concussion (the team claimed it was just a back injury). Those issues kept popping up during the season, but the Dolphins were still tied for the AFC East lead at 8-3 before losing five straight down the stretch. They still made the playoffs but were ousted in a 34-31 loss to the Bills (though they covered as 14-point road underdogs). DraftKings has Miami at 3-1 to win the division, the 11-1 co-fourth choice (with the Jets and Ravens) to win the AFC and 22-1 to win the Super Bowl with an Over/Under Season Win Total of 9.5.
WR Tyreek Hill came over from the Chiefs and had an immediate impact as he elevated the Dolphins’ offense from the start of the season. He ended up with 119 catches for 1,710 yards and 7 touchdowns, and his presence led to Jaylen Waddle also putting up WR1-type numbers with 75 catches for 1,356 yards and 8 TDs. Most of the success came with Tagovailoa, who really stepped up his game in his third season with 3,548 passing yards and 25 TDs with just 8 INTs in 13 games. Teddy Bridgewater also played in five games but left via free agency, with former New York Jet Mike White expected to pick up the important backup role in case Tua continues to have concussion issues.
The Dolphins had a complementary ground game with a running-back-by-committee led by Raheem Mostert’s 891 yards, with support from Jeff Wilson Jr., Chase Edmonds and others. Edmonds left for Tampa Bay, but Mostert and Wilson (who both played for coach Mike McDaniel in San Francisco) are back, and there have been rumors about the Dolphins being in the hunt to sign former Viking Dalvin Cook.
There’s a chance the offense could be more potent than last year when they averaged 23.8 points a game (ranked No. 11 in the league) and 357.1 yards (No. 8) despite falling off down the stretch. Again, Tagovailoa’s health probably holds the key.
The Miami defense didn’t fare as well as the offense last season, allowing 24.1 points per game (ranked No. 24 in the league) and 342.6 yards (No. 19). In 2020 and 2021, the Dolphins hid their defensive deficiencies with a lot of takeaways, but those dropped off last year. A contributing factor was the lack of a pass rush as sacks dropped from 49 to 41, with LB Melvin Ingram leading with only six.
Miami should see improvement on the defensive side of the ball with new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. He failed as a head coach in Denver, but sometimes great coordinators don’t make great head coaches, and he should excel back in this role. The Dolphins also traded with the Rams for CB Jalen Ramsey, and his taking the WR1s should help Xavien Howard on the other corner.
When healthy, the Dolphins’ offense can score with anyone. However, any Miami futures are risky with Tagovailoa’s concussion history, even if the defense improves. As we’ve seen, once a player has concussions, it makes it easier to have more. The chances of Tua playing a complete season are much lower than others, so I can’t see risking anything on division, conference or Super Bowl futures. If they make the playoffs, that’s when I’d consider them live. The same goes for their Over on the Season Win Total; it would have to be Under 9.5 or pass.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: Whenever the subject of the Dolphins’ 2023 outlook comes up, a prerequisite is always attached to the prediction. “If Tua is healthy all season, then I love the Fins to win the East. If not, I am out.” That’s the declaration by all fans — even Miami diehards. Why? The Dolphins have a great reputation for being an explosive offense. They finished second in the NFL in yards per passing attempt and fourth in touchdowns scored, but they were only 11th in points scored and 24th in converting third downs. With their skill and talent, they can place the fear of God into any defensive coordinator. However, being consistent on offense and staying healthy was another thing. It was either a quick-strike drive for the Fins or they were punting. And their offense bogged down when they lost Tua at quarterback or some of their offensive linemen.
On defense, they couldn’t create turnovers. They also couldn’t cover man-to-man and were exposed whenever they played against a good quarterback, or even an average passer. Hiring Vic Fangio as the defensive coordinator will help the defense and allow them to become more multi-dimensional in terms of coverages. Will this be the cure for what ails Miami? Well, it goes back to one thing. Can they keep Tua healthy? He got hit this summer — which means he will get hit in the fall. So, my answer is probably no.
Player to Watch: RB Raheem Mostert
This offense runs through Tua, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle, but Miami would like to achieve some balance. If for nothing else, it could help Tua stay upright, given his history of concussions. Unfortunately, none of the running backs really stood out in the preseason, leaving a timeshare with Mostert, Jeff Wilson, De’Von Achane, and Salvon Ahmed. Mostert was the healthiest of the backs in camp, so he was mostly put in bubble wrap while the others battled it out for reps between injuries. Plan on Tua throwing early and often unless this position somehow shakes itself out. - Adam Burke
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