The Miami Dolphins were the NFL betting darlings of the 2020 season, finishing with an 11-5 record against the spread.
The Fins ride the 10-win wave of momentum into this year, going all-in on second-year passer Tua Tagovailoa and banking on a disruptive defense to remain the X-factor. Unlike last season, when Miami was getting points in nine of those 16 games, books have higher expectations for the Dolphins in terms of their weekly spreads. Can those profits stay fat, or are Miami bettors on the South Beach diet?
Here’s our 2021 Miami Dolphins NFL betting preview.
Miami Dolphins futures odds
|To Win Conference||+2,000|
|To Win Division||+400|
|To Make Playoffs||Yes +135 / No -150|
|Season Win Total O/U||9 (Over -135)|
Best futures bet: Under 9 wins (+115)
The Dolphins are a tough team to tack down in 2021. You have two new co-coordinators on offense, working with a second-year QB behind a youthful O-line and an active defense that benefitted from friendly bounces the season before. But the Fins are well-coached and padded their playbook with explosive – yet fragile - skill players this offseason.
The front end of the schedule will make or break Miami, with four of the first six games coming away from home. I’m higher on the Patriots (road game in Week 1) and Raiders (road game in Week 3) than most, and a tough schedule spot awaits them in London in Week 6. I could easily see the Fins falling flat out of the gate as they fail to live up to expectations.
Miami Dolphins betting overview
What will win bets: Pass defense
The Dolphins finished 2020 ranked No. 6 in Pass Defense DVOA at Football Outsiders and put the Xavien Howard contract drama to bed before the preseason, anchoring a very talented secondary.
Miami is going to make opposing passing attacks work for those big gains while giving the front seven added time to bring QB pressure thanks to solid coverage. If they can play with the lead and force offenses to pass, this secondary will secure the bag for bettors.
What will lose bets: Risk vs Reward
Flores loves to roll the dice and brings the heat more than most, blitzing on 40.8 percent of snaps last season. The Dolphins were the most chaos-causing teams in the NFL, recording 47 sacks and a league-high 29 takeaways – 11 of those on 16 forced fumbles (two of which went back for a TD).
Those turnovers were massive for Dolphins bettors, most notably in upsets and ATS wins versus the likes of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Arizona, and Kansas City. However, bottling that anarchy and unleashing it week after week is near-impossible. Don’t count on chaos, because it doesn’t always show up.
Miami, which finished with a plus-9 turnover margin, also ranked ninth in “Luck Rating” in 2020. Do you need to be good to be lucky, or lucky to be good? We’ll find out with the Fins in 2021.
Miami Dolphins game-by-game odds
The Fins are favorites in nine games during the 2021 schedule with a pick’em at Las Vegas in Week 3. Tack those point spread projections onto a slate ranked T27 in SOS and you can see why the Over 9 wins is juiced like it is (-135).
The bulk of that chalk comes in the second half of the calendar, with Miami giving the points in five of its final seven games and playing at home in four of those closing contests. Under Flores, the Dolphins are 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS at home between Week 11 and Week 17.
|1||@ New England||+2.5||45|
|3||@ Las Vegas||PK||46.5|
|5||@ Tampa Bay||+7.5||50.5|
|6||vs Jacksonville (UK)||-2.5||45.5|
|11||@ N.Y. Jets||-3||44|
|13||vs N.Y. Giants||-3.5||45.5|
|15||vs N.Y. Jets||-6.5||45.5|
|16||@ New Orleans||+3||46.5|
|18||vs New England||-2.5||44|
Early season forecast
The Dolphins face a tough opening sked, with two of their first three games on the road and four of their opening six contest away from home, capped by a neutral-site matchup with Jacksonville in London, England in Week 6.
Week 1 is the ultimate litmus test, not just for Miami but for the AFC East. The Fins are catching 2.5 points in New England (some books down to +2) with Flores facing off against his former mentor, Bill Belichick. The Dolphins split their two matchups with the Pats last season, losing 21-11 at Foxborough in Week 1. Since Flores took over in 2019, he’s 3-0 SU and ATS when pegged as a pup of less than a field goal.
Another divisional rival is on the board when the Bills come to the FLA for the Fins’ home opener. Miami is catching a cool field goal inside Hard Rock Stadium and is 8-4 ATS versus AFC East opponents over the past two years, including a 6-3 ATS count as a divisional underdog.
Sin City is a siren call in Week 3, with bookies on the fence about the Dolphins’ run-in with the Raiders (PK). The 46.5-point total is also a toss-up number. Las Vegas is going to be explosive on offense and if Miami’s added speedsters Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle are in tune with Tua, this 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff will provide plenty of fireworks.
Week 6 vs Jacksonville (UK) -2.5
The London NFL games return in 2021 and the Dolphins cross the pond for a contest with Jacksonville in Week 6. The time change and travel logistics are problematic enough – especially in COVID times – but this neutral-site game is also Miami’s fourth away game in the first six weeks and comes on the heels of a trip to Tampa Bay in Week 5. What’s more, teams normally follow a UK appearance with a bye week, but the Fins are back on the field hosting Atlanta in Week 7.
The Dolphins finished last season 7-9 Over/Under and are 16-16 O/U in two seasons under Flores.
Miami currently has five totals of 48 points or more on the board, according to the lookahead lines, and went 5-2 O/U when pegged with those higher numbers last season.
The Dolphins offense should improve in Year 2 for Tagovailoa – given his new targets can stay healthy – and the defense will not be as disruptive, opening the door for Over value. This scoring attack could really find its form midway through the schedule, playing five of six games at home between Week 9 and Week 15 (bye in Week 14).
Star power props: Tua Tagovailoa, QB
|Player prop||Odds to win|
|Passing Yards Total||3,899.5 (Over -112)|
|Passing TD Total||24.5 (Over -115)|
Best prop: Over 3,899.5 yards passing (Over -112)
It pays to shop around for player props. Case in point: Tua’s passing yard total is as high as 4,000.5 O/U at some sportsbooks. And given the oft-shaky stature of second-year QBs, every yard can count when capping these passing props.
Tagovailoa didn’t get a fair shake in his rookie campaign, coming off a hip injury at Alabama, and limited in prep and practice due to the pandemic. His pro progression was slowed as he played behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he showed flashes of brilliance when finally given the keys to the car.
The Dolphins invested in his success by bringing in Fuller and drafting Tide teammate Waddle, placing those rocket boosters alongside explosive wideout DeVante Parker. To put his passing yards O/U into perspective, Jared Goff was able to amass 3,952 yards through the air in 15 games last year. Tua should easily top that given his receiving corps.
Trend to know
Miami has been one of the best underdog bets in football in the past two seasons, owning a 16-9 ATS (64%) mark when getting the points, including an 8-4 ATS count as a road pup. The Fins find themselves as road dogs in five of their seven true away games.
Miami as road underdog
- Week 1 @ New England +2.5
- Week 5 @ Tampa Bay +7.5
- Week 8 @ Buffalo +7
- Week 16 @ New Orleans +3
- Week 17 @ Tennessee +3.5
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