At least, that's what the oddsmakers are saying. Tagovailoa is tied with Patrick Mahomes as the betting favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award by Caesars Sportsbook.
As Miami prepares to host the Denver Broncos (1 p.m., E.T., CBS) in its home opener Sunday, Tagovailoa is leading what's been the league's best offense -- winning a pair of conference games on the road in the process.
“Well, I think if you can win any time on the road, that’s a big plus," Tagovailoa said Sunday night after a 24-17 win over the New England Patriots. "It’s hard to win games on the road in this league.
"But, you know, we’re still trying to find our identity as a team, offensively, defensively, and the special teams. And we’ll continue to watch film, continue to grow, continue to get better.”
Tagovailoa recorded a modest stat line against New England -- 21-of-30 passing for 249 yards, one touchdown and an interception, largely taking underneath routes while the Patriots played with multiple safeties over the top. But if the Dolphins are still trying to find their identity as Tagovailoa suggested, they don't appear to be struggling through the process.
Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert ran for 121 yards and two scores on 18 carries, powering a Dolphins ground game that went for 143 yards. A week ago the roles were reversed, with Tagovailoa throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns to lift Miami's offense over the Chargers.
The Dolphins' offensive identity? Offense -- by any means necessary.
"I’ve been fortunate enough to be on several offenses that have had some productivity," coach Mike McDaniel said Monday. "And in that process, you learn the whole mode of playing an opponent, watching their tape, game planning for what they’re doing but also game planning for what could possibly be coming. And in that, by and large, most teams -- specifically coached by Coach [Bill] Belichick -- if you’ve put on tape that you can win a certain way, they’ll try to force you to win another way.
"So I knew line of scrimmage play was going to be important, but you have to let the game kind of play out, see what the defense is doing and if they’re taking something away, something else is vulnerable. So you just kind of have to have equity in your game plan from that perspective.”
The scorching start to the season has been vindicating especially for Tagovailoa, who entered the season facing skepticism about his durability and ability to repeat what had been a career year in 2022 before concussions derailed his season. Even in the small sample size of two games, Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passing yards (715), yards per attempt (9.5), passing first downs (38) and ranks third in quarterback rating (79).
He's faced 23 blitzes -- the sixth-most in the league through two weeks -- but he's only been contacted six times and sacked once. The clean uniforms are in part a result of improved offensive line play, but also because he's getting the ball out faster than any other quarterback in the NFL, taking an average of 2.35 seconds to attempt a pass.
He hasn't been perfect, notably, he's thrown two interceptions including one Sunday night at a critical juncture in the fourth quarter. But McDaniel said he's most proud of the way Tagovailoa has been able to quickly respond to his mistakes without letting them eat away at him.
"Anytime he’s off on any sort of throw, you know, in the past, that frustration has really bled into multiple drives," McDaniel said. "And there was one drive ... he had a couple throws that he would have liked to have back, one to Tyreek and one to Jaylen Waddle down the field consecutively. But it speaks to where he’s at in his game because I thought he came back from that. We had some operations stuff that we’ll need to clean up.
"That’s the whole point, and what I talk to the team about all the time is it’s a journey. It’s a journey of getting better so your best football is in December. So when you’re able to not play entirely your cleanest football and get the win, you embrace that. And we’ll look forward to getting better from it."