Ahead of every NFL season, oddsmakers release a projected win total for each team. Bettors can then bet whether the team will go over or under that total. It's a bet that can give you something to root for almost all season long.
The Miami Dolphins had an active offseason. They hired a new head coach in Mike McDaniel. They acquired one of the best weapons in football in Tyreek Hill. There was some excitement surrounding the Dolphins. Oddsmakers set their preseason win total at 8.5. That would put Miami on the playoff bubble in the AFC.
Well, oddsmakers appear to have nailed that projection. However, the path to this point has been one hell of a roller coaster and certainly isn't what Miami expected.
The Dolphins started the season 3-0, beating the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. In their fourth game, Tua Tagovailoa went out with a concussion. They lost that game and the next two to drop to 3-3. An injury to a starting quarterback leading to three straight losses is already a bad place to be if you bet the over.
However, Tagovailoa returned and the Dolphins won five straight games to improve to 8-3. At that point, over bettors needed Miami to win just one of their final six games to cash.
The schedule got tough, and Miami dropped three straight games on the road to San Francisco, the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo. Suddenly, Miami was 8-6 and its grip on a playoff spot was loosening. Still, the Dolphins were in a good spot and needed just one win in their final three games for over 8.5.
Next up was a Christmas game against the Green Bay Packers. The Dolphins were home favorites. In the second half, Tagovailoa struggled immensely and the Dolphins lost the game. After the game, it was revealed Tagovailoa suffered yet another concussion. Last week, the Dolphins had a lead against the Patriots. Then, Teddy Bridgewater threw a pick-six and injured his throwing hand on the same play. Miami went on to lose.
Now, entering Week 18, the Dolphins sit at 8-8. They need a win against the New York Jets and a Patriots loss to the Bills to get into the playoffs. If they get that win to get into the playoffs, over bettors will finally cash on their bets. If you bet the under, you probably expected to lose the bet when Miami was 8-3 a few weeks ago. Miami is a 1-point home underdog against the Jets this Sunday. On top of that, Miami will likely be relying on third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson.
Other win totals still in flux
The Miami Dolphins' win total is one of six that has yet to be decided entering the final week of the NFL regular season. Let's take a look at the other five.
While not quite as maddening as the Dolphins' win total, bettors who took Baltimore to go over 10.5 wins have to be annoyed right now as well. It was an up-and-down start for Baltimore, as the Ravens went 3-3 in their first six games. However, they went on to win four straight games to get to 7-3. They looked to have their eighth win wrapped up, but Trevor Lawrence made a late comeback to hand Baltimore a loss.
Since then, Lamar Jackson was injured and Tyler Huntley has taken over. They've lost close games to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, which are games they would certainly be favored to win with Jackson at quarterback. Now, entering Week 18, the Ravens are at 10 wins. They are 7-point underdogs against the Bengals as it looks like Jackson will be out again.
If Lamar stayed healthy, Ravens over 10.5 wins likely would have cruised to victory. Instead, it will take a sizable upset to cash the over.
Los Angeles Chargers
Offseason hype for the Chargers is nothing new. After dealing with plenty of key injuries to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, J.C. Jackson, Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa, the Chargers were just 6-6. However, they've gone on to win four straight games to clinch a playoff spot and get to 10 wins.
Bettors who bet the Chargers to go over 10.5 wins need Los Angeles to win one more game. Unfortunately for them, it appears that Los Angeles might not play their starters this Sunday. If Baltimore loses to Cincinnati in the early afternoon window, Los Angeles will have nothing to play for in the late afternoon window. The Chargers are 2.5-point underdogs against the Broncos on Sunday.
Between the slow start, a rash of early season injuries and the potential of benching their starters in the season finale, it would be a tough beat if the Chargers went under 10.5 wins.
New England Patriots
For the Patriots, it's simple. Win and you're into the playoffs. For anyone who bet the Patriots to go over 8.5 wins this season, the same formula applies. Unfortunately for those bettors, New England is a 7-point underdog against the Buffalo Bills.
The Commanders were 7-5 ahead of back-to-back games against the New York Giants. They tied the first game as a road favorite. In the rematch, they lost as a home favorite. Since then, they've lost to the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns. Washington had five chances to cash over 7.5 wins for their bettors, but it will all come down to this weekend.
If you bet the Panthers to go over 5.5 wins early in the offseason, you've already cashed that ticket. However, after Carolina acquired Baker Mayfield, its win total moved to 6.5 wins. If you bet them then, you have one more game to sweat out.
The Panthers are 3.5-point road underdogs against the New Orleans Saints. On one hand, you'd have to think the Panthers might feel defeated after missing out on the playoffs in a tough loss last week. However, their players seem to like interim coach Steve Wilks and might want to fight for him one last time. It's a winnable game, but they are underdogs.
The over teams
Ahead of Week 18, 14 NFL teams have already cashed the over on their season win totals:
Buffalo OVER 11.5 wins
Kansas City OVER 10.5 wins
Dallas OVER 10.5 wins
Philadelphia OVER 9.5 wins
Minnesota OVER 9.5 wins
San Francisco OVER 9.5 wins
Cincinnati OVER 9.5 wins
NY Giants OVER 7.5 wins
Pittsburgh OVER 7.5 wins
Detroit OVER 6.5 wins
Jacksonville OVER 6.5 wins
NY Jets OVER 5.5 wins
Seattle OVER 5.5 wins
Atlanta OVER 4.5 wins
The under teams
Twelve other teams have cashed the under on their season win totals:
Tampa Bay UNDER 11.5 wins
LA Rams UNDER 10.5 wins
Green Bay UNDER 10.5 wins
Denver UNDER 10.5 wins
Indianapolis UNDER 9.5 wins
Tennessee UNDER 9.5 wins
Las Vegas UNDER 8.5 wins
Cleveland UNDER 8.5 wins
Arizona UNDER 8.5 wins
New Orleans UNDER 8.5 wins
Chicago UNDER 5.5 wins
Houston UNDER 4.5 wins