In what has turned out to be a loaded AFC East, the Dolphins have been extremely impressive so far this season. They have topped the Division after ten games—with a 8–3 record. However, they face a tough challenge in Week 13 when they head west to take on the in-form San Francisco 49ers.
So far, the Dolphins have rewarded their fans and bettors who have wagered on their progress, but will they prove to be good value for sportsbook customers who use their betting offers in Week 13? We take an early look at what is likely to be a crucial battle between West Coast and East Coast.
49ers On a Roll
After falling short in the NFC Championship game last season, the 49ers made some bold offseason moves—not least their decision to go all in on Trey Lance as quarterback—and they bolstered what was an already strong roster in a bid to compete in what was looking like a tough NFC West.
The biggest challenge was expected to come from the team that beat them in the Championship game and went on to win the Super Bowl, but the Rams have been off the pace all season. instead, the rejuvenated Seattle Seahawks, with Geno Smith running the show, have been the closest challengers.
The early signs were not good, as they lost to both the Bears and the Broncos in their first three weeks and lost Lance to a season-ending injury. However, wins over the Rams (for the second time this season), the Chargers, and the Cardinals, saw the 49ers build up momentum going into Week 12.
Dolphins’ Steady Improvement
When the Dolphins lost those three games to the Jets, Bengals, and Vikings, it seemed as though their progress had been stalled after a strong start.
The long-prophesized Dolphins revival looked to be on hold once again, but four winnable games gave Tua Tagovailoa and his offense the perfect chance to rack up some points and they did just that—scoring 121 across the four games to surge to a 7–3 record going into their bye week.
That run of strong form saw them draw level with the faltering Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC East, and with the New York Jets also losing their way, the possibility of winning the Division is definitely open, although there are some tough games coming up.
After their assignment in San Francisco, the Dolphins face the Chargers, and then all three of their Divisional rivals in the last four weeks of the season—in what is shaping up to be a fascinating battle.
Although these are two of the oldest franchises in the NFL, they have spent most of their history in different Conferences, so their head-to-head record is less extensive than you’d think.
Their first-ever game was in 1973—the fourth season since the full merger of the AFL and NFL. Miami was fresh off that historic unbeaten season and would go on to win their second consecutive Super Bowl, but they started their title defense with a 21–13 victory over the 49ers at the Orange Bowl.
The next three meetings—in 1977, 1980, and 1983—all went to Miami, but the 49ers earned their first win against the Dolphins in spectacular fashion—at Super Bowl XIX in 1985—when they won 38–16 to land their second Championship in three years.
That win kicked off an era of 49ers dominance, as they beat Miami in 1986, 1992, 1995, and 2001, before the Dolphins once again turned the tables. Miami have won the last two meetings with the 49ers, in 2016 and 2020, and lead the head-to-head series 8–6.
The 49ers have the toughest defense in the NFL and the star of that show is Nick Bosa, the edge rusher who made a huge progression in his second season last year. He finished with the fourth-highest number of sacks in the 2021 NFL year and is matching that level again this year.
He already has 10.5 sacks to his name going into Week 12 and is a big part of the reason why the 49ers have given up the fewest yards of any team at this stage of the season.
Tua Tagovailoa is a legitimate contender for MVP this season, but the player who has made the biggest difference for Miami is Tyreek Hill. Adding an elite receiver of his caliber has enabled Tagovailoa to start to fulfill his massive potential and has given the Dolphins another dimension on offense.
Hill is one of the best players in the league, and his explosiveness, reliability, and playmaking impact mean that Miami are always in the game, no matter what else is going on.
Who Will Win?
This game is all about the Dolphins’ offense against the 49ers’ defense. San Francisco are a solid offensive threat that Miami cannot sleep on, but the 49ers’ defense is ferocious – perhaps even outclassing the Dolphins – and will represent a big step up in opponent class after their run of winnable games.
If the Miami offensive line can provide proper protection for Tua, then he can do some serious damage, and if there is a relative weakness in the 49ers’ defense, it is against the pass. This looks like it will be the hardest game for the Dolphins so far, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see this one go to overtime.