Miami Dolphins preview 2023: Over or under 9.5 wins? Chances to claim AFC East title?

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Miami Dolphins running back Chris Brooks, left, reacts with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) after scoring on a touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

It’s NFL team preview time, and today we’re looking at the Miami Dolphins. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from July 25 through Sept. 8, we will take an in-depth look at each team in the NFL with a 7- to 10-minute video going through impactful additions and departures, last year’s rankings and strength of schedule in 2023.

Home Field Sports analyst Jim Derry will then make a prediction on the team’s record this season and where they will finish in their respective division, along with the over/under win total, as posted at Caesars Sportsbook.

These stories are a brief summary of the accompanied preview videos – powered by the Dattitude Podcast (which will review each division every Friday until the season begins). The schedule for when each team will run is listed below with a link to each story and video that already has run.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Coach: Mike McDaniel (2nd season)

2022 record: 9-8, 2nd in AFC East; lost to Buffalo, 34-31, in wild-card round.

Last season in a nutshell: A roller coaster. An absolute roller coaster. 3-0. 3-3. 8-3. 8-8. Playoffs. Season over.

It might have been the weirdest season for one team since the New Orleans Saints had to play their entire schedule on the road following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Much of it had to do with the health of their franchise quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. All three seasons he has been in the league he has had injury issues, and last year he suffered two concussions that had him contemplating retirement.

That being said, it’s not like the Dolphins always won when he played and always lost when he didn’t (although they were 1-3 when he didn’t).

After defeating the Bills in a strange 21-19 game in Miami in Week 3 to open 3-0, the media jumped all over this team and crowned Tyreek Hill as the best free-agent signing in NFL history. (OK, I exaggerate a tad, but you catch my drift.) Hill had 21 catches in his first three games for more than 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

Tua was over 70 percent in completion percentage, and second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle wasn’t just a nice complement to Hill, he basically matched him step for step.

Then came Tua’s first concussion in a loss to the Bengals, which began a three-game skid. Even in the five-game win streak that followed, it came against mostly teams that weren’t all that good. Five losses later, the offense was having trouble getting back on track, and Tua was hurt again.

However, weirdly enough, in a 34-31 wild-card loss at Buffalo, the team came together and had multiple opportunities to win the game in the icy, windy conditions of Orchard Park. Can they turn that into an even better opportunity in 2023?

2023 bye week: 10

2023 Draft: Lost first-round pick due to tampering. 2 (51st overall) CB Cam Smith, South Carolina; 3 (84) RB Devon Achane, Texas A&M; 6 (197) TE Elijah Higgins, Stanford; 7 (238) T Ryan Hayes, Michigan.

Free-agent signings: LB David Long (from Tennessee), 2 years, $11M; QB Mike White (from NY Jets), 2 years, $4M; WR Braxton Berrios (from NY Jets), 1 year, $3.5M; G Dan Feeney (from NY Jets), 1 year, $3.25M; Isaiah Wynn (from New England), 1 year, $2.3M; S Deshon Elliott (from Detroit), 1 year, $2.3M; TE Eric Saubert (from Denver), 1 year, $1.67M; CB Eli Apple (from Cincinnati), 1 year, $1.6M; T Cedric Ogbuehi (from NY Jets), 1 year, $1.35M; WR Robbie Anderson (from Arizona), 1 year, $1.32M; TE Tyler Kroft (from San Francisco), 1 year, $1.29M; LB Malik Reed (from Pittsburgh), 1 year, $1.23M; P Jake Bailey (from New England), 1 year, $1.23M; DE Da’shawn Hand (from Tennessee), 1 year, $1.08M.

What needs to go right: There’s little question these Dolphins might be the most popular “surprise” pick in the NFL this preseason. (Which means it really wouldn’t be a surprise if they took a big step forward.)

The biggest question is an obvious one: Can Tua stay healthy? Those who dismiss the question should be pointed toward the facts: He has yet to play in more than 13 games in a season and could be one concussion away from the end of his career.

Meanwhile, their 18th-ranked defense must be much better for them to even think about wresting the AFC East title from the Bills – or Aaron Rodgers’ Jets. This especially is true with the fact they were 27th last year against the pass, which is a significant drop off from Brian Flores’ last team in 2022 when they were 16th.

Still, there is reason for optimism in a second year of McDaniel’s offense. Hill just turned 29, which is about the high point of a receiver’s career (or on the onset of the downside), and while duplicating 1,710 yards is probably far-fetched, his average of 1,400 receiving yards over the past three seasons certainly is attainable. And if Waddle comes close to the 1,356 he had in 2022, look out.

While their schedule is tough, they’ll be favored in four of the first six games they play before a tough stretch at Philadelphia on Oct. 22, vs. Kansas City in Munich on Nov. 5 and at the Jets the day after Thanksgiving. If they can open 4-2 and pull off an upset in one of the aforementioned games, the Fins could make Joe Q. Public and Aunt Mabel look like geniuses.

Key moments in video:

0:00 Miami Dolphins preview

1:20 Back to back 9-8 – why is this different?

2:25 Story of 2022 was Tua’s concussions

4:06 Can Mike McDaniel keep it going?

5:02 Will Vic Fangio as DC help 27th-ranked pass D?

6:12 Dissecting a tough schedule

7:56 Predictions and best bet 

PREVIEW SCHEDULE / LINKS

AFC SOUTH

July 25: Houston Texans

July 26: Indianapolis Colts

July 27: Jacksonville Jaguars

July 28: Tennessee Titans

NFC WEST

Aug. 1: Arizona Cardinals

Aug. 2: Los Angeles Rams

Aug. 3: San Francisco 49ers

Aug. 4: Seattle Seahawks

AFC WEST

Aug. 8: Denver Broncos

Aug. 9: Kansas City Chiefs

Aug. 10: Las Vegas Raiders

Aug. 11: Los Angeles Chargers

NFC EAST

Aug. 15: Dallas Cowboys

Aug. 16: New York Giants

Aug. 17: Philadelphia Eagles

Aug. 18: Washington Commanders

AFC EAST

Aug. 22: Buffalo Bills

Aug. 23: Miami Dolphins

Aug. 24: New England Patriots

Aug. 25: New York Jets

NFC NORTH

Aug. 29: Chicago Bears

Aug. 29: Detroit Lions

Aug. 30: Green Bay Packers

Aug. 30: Minnesota Vikings

AFC NORTH

Aug. 31: Baltimore Ravens

Aug. 31: Cincinnati Bengals

Sept. 1: Cleveland Browns

Sept. 2: Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC SOUTH

Sept. 5: Atlanta Falcons

Sept. 6: Carolina Panthers

Sept. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sept. 8: New Orleans Saints

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