It truly is a different — in a good way — season for the Miami Dolphins.
The latest example comes with the opening point spread for their Week 12 game against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium, which has them favored by 11.5 points, according to BetOnline (www.betonline.ag).
To illustrate the significance of that, understand that the largest spread by which the Dolphins have been favored since the start of the 2004 season was 10.5.
We have to go all the way back to the 2003 season opener to find the Dolphins favored by a larger spread and it also was against the Houston Texans.
Remember that at that time the Dolphins had won 11 consecutive season openers and they were kicking off the 2003 at home against a Houston starting its second season in the NFL after going 4-12 in 2002.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they ended suffering one of their worst upset losses that season, dropping a 20-19 decision on a late field goal by Kris Brown — a loss that would prove decimating in the long run because Miami failed to make the playoffs that year despite a 10-6 record after losing out in a playoff tiebreaker with the Denver Broncos.
A GOOD RECENT HISTORY AS A HEAVY FAVORITE
The good news for the Dolphins is that the 2003 opener was an aberration when it comes to losing as a double-digit favorite.
Based on our research, the Dolphins have been favored by 10 or more points 10 times since 2000 — chosen as an arbitrary starting point for no reason other than it marked the beginning of a new millennium — and they have won the nine games outside of the 2003 Houston opener.
The last time the Dolphins were favored by double digits was last season for the home game against the New York, which came four weeks after Miami had won 24-17 at MetLife Stadium.
As a 10-point favorite at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami won the rematch 31-24.
Here's the complete rundown:
2021 vs. N.Y. Jets — Favored by 10, won 31-24
2020 vs. N.Y. Jets _ Favored by 10, won 24-0
2020 vs. Cincinnati — Favored by 10.5, won 19-7
2016 vs. Cleveland — Favored by 10, won 30-24 (OT)
2009 vs. Tampa Bay — Favored by 10, won 25-23
2008 vs. Oakland — Favored by 10, won 17-15
2006 vs. Tennessee — Favored by 10.5, won 13-10
2003 vs. Houston — Favored by 14, lost 21-20
2002 vs. Chicago — Favored by 10.5, won 27-9
2001 vs. Carolina — Favored by 10, won 23-6
THE DOLPHINS NOW REGULARS IN FAVORITE ROLE
The game against Houston will mark the seventh time this season the Dolphins have been favored by oddsmakers, which already has tied the team's highest total since 2014 when they were favored nine times.
The Dolphins also were favored seven times in 2020 and 2021.
It will be the fifth consecutive game in which the Dolphins have been the betting favorites, following the matchups against the Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5), Detroit Lions (-3.5), Chicago Bears (-4) and Cleveland Browns (-3.5).
The last time the Dolphins entered a game as underdogs was Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings at Hard Rock Stadium when the point spread was 3 points.
The Dolphins also were favorites this season in the season opener against the New England Patriots (-3) and in Week 5 against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium (-3.5).
That the Dolphins are double-digit favorites this week should have been expected considering that Miami is on a roll, defenses haven't figured out how to stop Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and company, and Houston has lost five in a row and has the worst record in the NFL at 1-8-1.