Our website has always had strong ties to gambling, and with legalized sports betting becoming more accessible to everyone throughout the country, you can guarantee that we’re going to dive even deeper into the addiction hobby.

Today’s article is going to focus solely on the Miami Dolphins, and while legalized sports gambling isn’t legal quite yet in the state of Florida, it’s likely just a matter of time before Floridians will have the opportunity to gamble on their beloved Dolphins in an attempt to become the next Trick Daddy (click the link and listen to the lyrics in the event you don’t understand that reference).

Florida has over 20 million in population, so when the state legalizes sports betting, we can expect a ton of traffic at the sportsbooks. The surrounding states of Georgia and Alabama are still waiting on legislation, so we can expect fans from those states to make their way to Florida once the sports betting market is launched. SBD has a page that tracks each state’s current legal sports betting situation. Could be helpful to check back every now and then to stay up to date with which states have passed legislation.

As previously mentioned, this article is going to focus on the Dolphins, in particular, two specific bets that I’d recommend placing prior to the start of the 2021 NFL season.

Bet No. 1 – Regular Season Wins Over 9.5 (-120)

Let me start by answering the first question several readers will likely have… yes, I am a Dolphins fan. However, due to the fact that I’m also a gambler, I force myself to take my personal feelings out of the picture when I’m placing wagers.

It’s become a yearly tradition for me to go through the entire NFL schedule and pick winners/losers of all 544 regular-season games two different times during the offseason. The first time I do this is shortly after the NFL Draft when over/under win totals have recently been updated, and a second time just before the start of the season where I also project out playoff matchups and make my official prediction for that year’s Super Bowl winner.

I do this for a couple of different reasons. First, I’m a football degenerate and I’m genuinely curious to see how I project each team to perform prior to the start of each season so that I can look back and see where I was both wrong and right. Additionally, I use these predictions to see where I have each team stacked up in comparison to where Vegas has them in regards to their over/under win total.

Last season I faced the homer criticism when I had the Dolphins projected to finish 9-7. You can imagine how happy I was when I could go back to those criticizing me and tell them, “yea I was wrong, I actually shorted Miami a win.”

While I know things can change very quickly in just a single season in the NFL, I’ve gotta tell you that I don’t imagine win/loss production trending in a negative direction for the Dolphins in 2021. Since the 2021 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, that means my first round of offseason predictions has been completed. I’m happy to tell you, Dolphins fans and bettors, that I currently project Miami to finish the upcoming season with a 12-5 regular-season record, which is 2.5 wins higher than their current over/under win total.

My projected wins come against: New England (x2), Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Houston, New York Jets (x2), Carolina, New York Giants, New Orleans

My projected losses come against: Buffalo (x2), Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Tennessee

The most difficult portion of the schedule, and what may make bettors most nervous to bet this win total over, is the beginning of the season. The Dolphins face New England, Buffalo, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay over the course of the first five games of the season. That’s a trip to Foxboro (where Miami typically struggles), a home game against last year’s AFC East champion and representative in the AFC Championship game (Buffalo), a road trip to Vegas (easily winnable, but there will be distractions), a home game against Indy who made the playoffs last year and nearly defeated Buffalo in the process, and a road game against last year’s Super Bowl champion (Tampa Bay).

That’s a fairly brutal start to the schedule, but if Miami can escape from this stretch with just two or three losses, the over 9.5 win total is still in pretty good shape considering the fact that the remainder of the schedule includes matchups against the likes of Jacksonville, Atlanta, Houston, both New York teams and Carolina – all games of which Miami will likely be favored to win.

There are a couple of key differences between the ’20 and ’21 Dolphins, and fortunately for bettors of the over 9.5 win total, these differences work in favor of the Dolphins moving forward. Here is a brief breakdown of the primary differences between this year’s and last year’s teams.

Offensive Philosophy…

Last year’s Dolphins’ offense was suited for the playstyle of Ryan Fitzpatrick. With Fitz out of the picture, the subtraction of Chan Gailey as the team’s offensive coordinator, and the front office surrounding starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with playmakers that are near-perfect fits for Tua’s skillset, the team won’t be attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole this season on offense.

Not only were the wide receivers on last year’s team not the perfect match for Tua, they were also injured and not available at his disposal, which left him with the likes of Mack Hollins, Antonio Callaway and Lynn Bowden Jr. as his top playmakers on the outside for numerous games last season.

The return of Preston Williams and a healthy DeVante Parker, along with the additions of Will Fuller (via free agency) and Jaylen Waddle (via draft) gives Tua a more than competent set of playmakers on the outside to go along with Mike Gesicki who can work both in-line as a traditional tight end and from the slot.

This added dimension of speed and the ability to quickly separate from defenders (via Fuller & Waddle) plays to Tua’s strengths both in the run/pass option offense and in a spread out 4-5 wideout offense, which will allow Tua to serve as the “blackjack dealer” type of quarterback that we saw during his time at Alabama.

Offensive Line…

Keep in mind that Miami played a great deal of snaps last year while starting three rookies on the offensive line. Being thrown to the fire in year one, and now having a full offseason to grow and develop with Tua, the coaching staff and the rest of the offense, will pay large dividends for left tackle Austin Jackson, left guard Solomon Kindley and (likely) right guard Robert Hunt. Now add in rookie right tackle Liam Eichenberg, who finished his collegiate career at Notre Dame with a streak of 33 straight games without allowing a sack, and veteran center Matt Skura, and Miami projects to have its most competent offensive line unit that we’ve seen in quite a few years.

Pressuring Opposing Team’s Quarterbacks…

The Dolphins already had a very good secondary, featuring Byron Jones and last season’s NFL interception leader, Xavien Howard, and they continued to build upon this strength this offseason by adding Justin Coleman and Jason McCourty via free agency while selecting Oregon’s Jevon Holland with the No. 36 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Miami relied heavily on its secondary last year finishing near the top of the league in how often they blitzed in order to create pressure on opposing team’s quarterbacks. While my assumption is that Miami will still blitz fairly often since Brian Flores and Josh Boyer have developed very efficient blitz schemes and packages, I believe we’ll see their percentage of snaps they blitz on drop in ’21 due to some of the players they were able to acquire this offseason – mainly first-round draft pick (No. 18 overall), Jaelan Phillips.

Phillips provides Miami with a strong pass-rushing presence opposite Emmanuel Ogbah, which should (theoretically) allow the defense to pressure the quarterback with four, while leaving additional reinforcements in the secondary to defend the pass. While we shouldn’t count on Phillips to be a completely polished pass rusher from day one, it is worth noting that numerous draft analysts believe he would have been a surefire top-10 selection had it not been for the concussions and additional injuries he suffered during his time at UCLA.

These primary differences between the 2020 & 2021 versions of the Miami Dolphins, mixed with a few additional key additions that I won’t go into great detail on in this specific article leave me feeling very confident in taking Miami over the 9.5 win total this upcoming season.

Bet No. 2 – Yes To Make The Playoffs (+115)

Nearly everything mentioned in regards to Bet No. 1 is relevant to Bet No. 2, so based on my projected win total of 12, it may be worth your time to double down on the Dolphins and bet them to make the playoffs, especially considering the +115 odds.

Given the way my projections played out, Miami would enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed due to the fact that Buffalo once again claimed the AFC East with a projected 14-3 record. Based on my game-by-game predictions the playoff picture in the AFC plays out the following way:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (15-2)
2. Baltimore Ravens (15-2)
3. Buffalo Bills (14-3)
4. Tennessee Titans (14-3)
5. Miami Dolphins (12-5)
6. Cleveland Browns (11-6)
7. Los Angeles Chargers (10-7)

This shows that if Miami indeed does finish second in the division to Buffalo, its primary competition for a position as a wild card comes from Cleveland, Los Angeles, New England (9-8) and Cincinnati (8-9). As discussed earlier in the article, drastic changes can occur within a year in the NFL and I’m sure some of these teams won’t be in the playoff picture while others I don’t have listed will, but based on the four teams I’ve listed as primary competition for a wild card spot, I’ll take my odds with Miami at +115.

One final thing to keep in mind when considering making either of these bets is the fact that the typical “cold-weather” portion of the Dolphins’ schedule is fairly non-existent this upcoming season. While we’re used to Miami having to travel to Buffalo, New England or New York at least once in the cold-weather months, the only game on the schedule where inclement weather may play a factor comes on January 2 in Tennessee. For a team that hasn’t historically fared well in cold-weather games, the final portion of the 2021 schedule definitely falls in favor of Miami.

Interested in hearing my thoughts on other team’s over/under win totals? Check out a couple of our recent podcast episodes as we discuss over/under win totals for those in the AFC and those in the NFC.

Ben Morgan is a co-host and blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook