2023 NFL Week 1 Betting Preview: Miami Dolphins vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Dolphins (0-0) at Chargers (0-0)

Opening Spread: Chargers -3

Opening Total: 50.5

Weather: Hybrid stadium, no weather concerns.

Line Report

The spread for this matchup has primarily stuck at Los Angeles Chargers -3, with a few brief stints at Chargers -2.5 earlier this summer. In some sportsbooks, this game opened as Chargers -2, but that line didn’t last a full day. The total for this contest opened in the 49-points range but has settled at its current mark of 50.5 for weeks.

Chargers Offense vs. Dolphins Defense

Justin Herbert is an obvious positive regression candidate in passing yards and touchdowns. Not only did Herbert play through a rib injury last year, but his two best receivers and best offensive linemen each missed significant time. Los Angeles also brought in offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who is expected to be more aggressive than his predecessor. The Chargers passing attack is well-positioned to be better than last season.

The Miami Dolphins brought in Vic Fangio to call the defense this year. Fangio is among the best defensive coordinators in football, and he’ll inherit a quality front and secondary. Fangio faced Herbert four times when he was the Denver Broncos head coach from 2019-2021. Herbert’s offense exceeded 30 points in two of those four matchups.

Miami will have a new scheme this season, so the Dolphins allowing the seventh-most receiving yards to running backs last season is only partially applicable in this matchup. That said, Austin Ekeler is among the most valuable passing game options in the league among running backs. Similarly, Keenan Allen saw 14 targets when these teams squared off last season. Both playcallers are new this season, but we shouldn’t completely ignore those facts, either.

Dolphins Offense vs. Chargers Defense

The Chargers allowed the second-most rushing yards to running backs last season. Los Angeles has been a run sieve in Brandon Staley’s first two years as head coach. With Jeff Wilson sidelined, expect veteran Raheem Mostert to lead Miami in carries in an elite matchup. Rookie runner De’Von Achane and veteran Salvon Ahmed are next in line but are both currently listed as questionable. 

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are a unique wide receiver duo in NFL history. Both speed demons run versatile route trees, which is why they combined for a 51.8 percent target share last season. In other words, the Dolphins passing attack runs through Hill and Waddle, as it should.

You could argue that Staley’s finest coaching job in Los Angeles came against Miami last season. The Chargers held the Dolphins to 17 points and limited Tua Tagovailoa to just 145 passing yards. In some ways, Miami is the perfect opponent for Staley’s system. They have a high-caliber passing attack with a good but not great quarterback. Perhaps more importantly, Miami doesn’t have a bell cow back or a high-end offensive line that can genuinely exploit the Chargers’ run defense.

What You’re Betting On

If you’re betting on the Chargers, you’re building that wager around two core concepts.

The first is that Herbert’s offense performs well against a talented, well-coached Dolphins defense. The Chargers offense could lead a winning effort and cover all on their own. If Staley’s defense plays as well as it did against Miami last season, Los Angeles will control this game.

If you’re considering a bet on the Dolphins, you need much more out of their offense than they provided in last year’s matchup. If Tagovailoa plays much better, this game has significant shootout potential. Even if Tagovailoa struggles against Staley’s defense again, Miami can be effective offensively if it simply runs the ball down the Chargers’ throats. That’s what most teams in the league do. Ultimately, Miami is a pass-centric offense less equipped for massive running game production than most teams. That makes the Chargers a tough matchup for the Dolphins.

As a bonus — Mostert’s rushing prop opened around 54 yards, and given this matchup, bettors should consider taking the over or passing.

Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Dolphins 21

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

Props 2022: 60-40

Ryan Reynolds is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team. Follow Ryan @RyanReynoldsNFL on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.  

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