It was just Week 1 of the NFL season, but legendary tight end Shannon Sharpe only needed to see the Miami Dolphins’ win against the Los Angeles Chargers to suggest that they are the team to beat in the AFC.
📽️ Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe believe the Miami Dolphins are the team to beat in the AFC East
— FinsXtra (@FinsXtra) September 12, 2023
“I’m not surprised that the betting favorite to win the AFC East now are the Miami Dolphins because I believe they have the most explosive offense, and I believe they have one of the better defensive coordinators (Vic Fangio),” Sharpe said.
“Now, I’m not saying he’s a better D-coordinator than Coach [Bill] Belichick, but I believe he has better players. Now, that’s also without J-Ram (Jalen Ramsey).
“J-Ram’s gonna come back at some point in time, Jalen Ramsey. You can pair him with Xavien Howard and Christian Wilkins, and they got [Bradley] Chubb and [Jaelan] Phillips.
“They got guys that can go head huntin’. They got guys that can get you on the ground defensively. And with that offense, with Tyreek [Hill] and Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert and Tua [Tagovailoa], that’s the best team in the AFC.”
Miami’s come-from-behind 36-34 road victory featured many of the things the Pro Football Hall of Famer was speaking about. The offense was spectacular, with Tagovailoa throwing for 466 passing yards and three touchdowns and Hill making 11 receptions for 215 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins racked up 536 yards of total offense at a rate of 8.2 yards per play.
The defense, in its first game under Fangio as coordinator, wasn’t as impressive, allowing 433 yards to the Chargers’ talented offense. But the unit came through when it was needed most, putting intense pressure on Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert down the stretch to prevent the Chargers from getting in range to attempt a possible game-winning field goal.
Also, as Sharpe said, the defense should get better whenever star cornerback Ramsey is able to return from the knee injury he suffered at the start of training camp.
The Dolphins’ status within the AFC East is rising because of their own play and the circumstances surrounding the other favorites in the division after Week 1 action. The New York Jets lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the season to an Achilles injury, and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen looked rocky with three interceptions and a crucial fumble in a 22-16 overtime loss to the Jets on Monday night.
According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the Dolphins are now +140 to win the AFC East — just ahead of the Bills at +145. Miami also now is the fifth betting choice to win the AFC and reach the Super Bowl at +850, behind only the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.
The Dolphins will get a chance to impress a national audience in Week 2 when they visit the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Another impressive road win could have Sharpe talking about the Dolphins as the best team in the entire NFL as soon as next week.