The 2023 National Football League (NFL) season is hurtling towards a thrilling conclusion, with all 32 franchises playing ten games, meaning the regular season has only seven fixtures remaining. As is often the case in the NFL, there have been a handful of surprise packages in 2023, but one team stands out from the crowd: the Miami Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins are one of the more famous NFL teams, thanks partly to their dominance in the 1970s. The Dolphins became AFC East division champions five times between 1971-1979, won the AFC Conference three times in a row between 1971-73, and won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973. In 1972, the Dolphins became the only NFL team in history to enjoy a perfect season, winning all their regular season and playoff games before becoming Super Bowl champions.
Moderate success followed in the 1980s, with the Dolphins reaching the Super Bowl in 1982 and against in 1984. However, they lost to the then-Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers, respectively. The 1990s were not kind to the Dolphins, and everything fell apart after 1999 when future Hall of Famer quarterback Dan Marino retired. However, the new-look 2023 Dolphins side finds itself as the fifth-favorite to win the Super Bowl with the best online football betting sites, and it would take a brave person to bet against the Dolphins navigating their way to their first Super Bowl appearance in almost 40 years.
Since 2000, the Dolphins have only made the postseason three times but never progressed past the Wild Card round, yet they find themselves as one of the favorites for Super Bowl glory. Long-suffering Dolphins fans have Mike McDaniel to thank for their team’s change of fortunes. McDaniel became the Dolphins’ head coach in time for the 2022 NFL season. Known as a forward-thinking coach who prefers offensive football, McDaniel’s new-look Dolphins won their opening three games in 2022, including victories over the New England Patriots and the much-fancied Buffalo Bills.
Three defeats followed before the Dolphins won their next five games to go into December with a 7-3 record. Injuries to key personnel, including quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, saw the Dolphins slump to a 9-8 record by Week 18. They then lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs to continue the team’s postseason hoodoo.
McDaniel and his coaching staff have had another year to work with the young Dolphins roster, and the fledging head coach’s style is showing on the field. Again, the Dolphins went 3-0 at the start of the 2023 regular season campaign, including a 70-20 demolition of the Denver Broncos, one of the NFL’s record scorelines. Although the Dolphins have lost to the Buffalo Bills, last season’s Super Bowl runners-up Philadelphia Eagles, and reigning champions Kansas City Chiefs, they go into the final seven games with a winning 7-3 record. When you look at the Dolphins’ remaining regular season fixtures, it is challenging not to see them win at least four, meaning they could win 11 games for the first time since 2008.
McDaniel’s creative plays have been there for all to see in 2023. His Dolphins lead the league in touchdowns scored, with the Dolphins having got the ball into the red zone 40 times, five more than the chasing pack. The Dolphins are third in offensive passing yards, second in yards per passing attempt, third in rushing yards, and the best in the league for yards per rushing carry. They also find themselves in the top ten for allowed passing and rushing yards. This combination of a stellar offense and a strong defense is one of the reasons for the Dolphins’ success on the field through the first ten fixtures.
Maligned quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was on his way out of Miami before McDaniel took over at the helm. Tagovailoa has abundant talent, yet he was too inconsistent during his first few seasons with the Dolphins. McDaniel nailed his colors to the mast early into his tenure, stating he was building the team around his Hawaiian star. Tagovailoa is repaying McDaniels’ faith in him by putting together career-best figures on the field. He is only 66 passing yards from breaking through 3,000 yards for the season and needs only five more touchdowns to break his 25-touchdown record. With seven games remaining, Tagovailoa could smash through 4,000 yards and 30+ touchdowns.
Tagovailoa has two top-tier wide receivers to aim for in Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. Although Waddle has not hit the dizzy heights of 2022, he is still playing his part and averaging 13.1 yards per reception. On the other hand, Hill has been incredible throughout the season so far. Hill already has over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns and looks set to end the campaign with career-best figures across the board.
The Dolphins’ rushing game, which lacked last year, has also been superb. Raheem Mostert is enjoying his best-ever season regarding yards, touchdowns, and average rushing yards. If the Dolphins can get rookie running back De’Von Achane fit for the last part of the season, the team’s offense will take some stopping.
The Dolphins are currently 7-3 going into the season’s final seven games. While it is possible they lose all seven of their remaining fixtures and end the season with a 7-10 record, it is improbable. The Dolphins play the New York Jets twice, the Washington Commanders, and the Tennessee Titans, who have losing records right now. They also face the Dallas Cowboys and the high-flying Baltimore Ravens, who could prove to be stumbling blocks as they have solid winning records. The Dolphins then take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 18, with the Bills struggling for consistency.
Realistically, the Dolphins should end the 2023 regular season with at least a 10-7 record and one as good as 11-6 or even 12-5. All they have to do then is break their playoffs hex, which is easier said than done. However, McDaniel has his team believing in themselves, and they are confident they can beat any team put in front of them. Winning the Super Bowl is probably a step too far this season, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if the Dolphins do not win American Football’s most prestigious prize, they will play a significant role in who does.