DATE: Saturday, Dec. 24
TIME: 1 p.m. ET
SITE: Gillette Stadium
SERIES RECORD: Miami leads 50-42 (including playoffs)
AT MIAMI: Dolphins lead 33-13
AT NEW ENGLAND: Patriots lead 28-17
AT TAMPA: Patriots lead 1-0
LAST MEETING: 2011 at Miami; Patriots 38, Dolphins 24
SERIES TREND: New England continued its dominance in the series in the 2011 opener, with its seventh victory in the teams’ last nine meetings. Only one of the last 11 meetings was decided by less than 10 points, the Dolphins’ 22-21 victory at Miami in November 2009.
SERIES HIGHLIGHT: Saturday’s game will be played exactly 11 years after the Dolphins traveled to New England for the 2000 season finale and left with a 27-24 victory that gave them the AFC East title in Dave Wannstedt’s first year as Miami head coach.
NEW ENGLAND’S RECORD: 11-3
LAST GAME: Won 41-23 at Denver
OVERVIEW: The Patriots find themselves in familiar territory as the regular season winds down. New England has reached double digits in victories for the ninth consecutive season and they’re in line for the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: Along with Coach Bill Belichick, Tom Brady is the reason the Patriots always are near the top of the standings. He’s also got the best possession receiver in the league in Wes Welker and a tremendous tight end tandem in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: Considering they’re reached 30 points in 11 of their 14 games, the Patriots don’t have many problems on offense. If we must point out something, their running game won’t scare anyone.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The only reason New England isn’t viewed as the overwhelming favorite to come out of the AFC to reach the Super Bowl is a defense that is suspect at best. The Patriots, however, seem to find a way to come up with takeaways and stops when they need them.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: Opponents have averaged 4.6 yards per rushing attempt, so stopping the run clearly is a problem. The pass rush wasn’t ferocious to begin with, and it took a major hit last Sunday when sack leader Andre Carter was carted off the field with a leg injury.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Stephen Gostkowski is among the best placekickers in the league and he’s 24-for-28 in field goal attempts this season. Julian Edelman and Wes Welker also are very good punt returners.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The only area of the kicking game where New England has done little is kickoff returns. Danny Woodhead and Edelman have handled most of those duties this season, but the team’s longest kickoff return was only 37 yards.