DATE: Sunday, Dec. 2
TIME: 1 p.m. ET
SITE: Sun Life Stadium
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, play-by-play; Dan Dierdorf, analysis)
SERIES RECORD: Miami leads 50-43 (including playoffs)
AT MIAMI: Dolphins lead 33-13
AT NEW ENGLAND: Patriots lead 29-17
AT TAMPA: Patriots lead 1-0
LAST MEETING: 2011 at New England; Patriots 27, Dolphins 24
SERIES TREND: New England has pretty much owned the AFC East for the past decade, so it only figures the Patriots have been dominant in division play. The Dolphins have managed only two victories in the last six meetings. Miami’s last three home victories against New England have come in the month of December — in 2004, 2006 and 2009.
SERIES HIGHLIGHT: That 2009 game didn’t start off very well for the Dolphins, who found themselves trailing 14-0 after New England drove 80 yards for touchdowns on its first two possessions. But Miami kept clawing back, even after an 81-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to Sam Aiken made it 21-10 in the third quarter. After
NEW ENGLAND’S RECORD: 8-3
LAST GAME: Won 49-19 at N.Y. Jets
OVERVIEW: Remember early in the season when the Patriots lost two in a row and actually found themselves with a losing record, something that hadn’t happened at any point in any season since 2003? Seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it? With five consecutive victories, including the last four with 190 points scored, the Patriots looked like they’re primed for a serious run at going back to the Super Bowl.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: It’s the same as it’s been since the middle of the 2001 season when Drew Bledsoe was injured in a game against the New York Jets. It’s Tom Brady, who just seems to keep getting better and better. His numbers this year include 24 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 105.0 passer rating.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: The Pats are first in the NFL in the following offensive categories: points, yards, lowest interception rate, first downs, third-down conversions. Oh yeah, they’re “only” sixth in the league in rushing offense. There are no weaknesses on this offense, let’s face it. Sure, the Patriots may not be quite as explosive with all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm, but they’re still as tough a challenge as there is for any defense.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: This has been the pattern on defense for New England the last couple of years: Give up a lot of yards but come up with a lot of takeaways. New England has forced 32 turnovers so far this season, and quick math will tell you that’s almost three a game. As if dealing with their offense weren’t enough, the Patriots have scored four defensive touchdowns this season.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: A total of 14 interceptions is the only thing keeping the New England pass defense from being a major weakness. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 65 percent of their passes against the Patriots (that’s even higher than Brady’s completion percentage) and, even with the 14 picks, have compiled a combined passer rating of 93.0.
THE PATRIOTS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: And on top of the defensive scores, the Patriots also can score in the kicking game. Already this season, New England has a kickoff return for a touchdown (Devin McCourty), a punt return for a touchdown (Julian Edelman) and a fumble return for a touchdown (Edelman again). On the flip side, the Pats haven’t given up a kickoff return longer than 41 yards or a punt return longer than 25 yards.
THE PATRIOTS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The one player on the entire New England team who hasn’t performed up to expectations is Stephen Gostkowski. The normally reliable placekicker missed a potential game-winning field goal against Arizona in Week 2 and will come into Sunday’s game having missed two of his last three attempts. He’s 21-for-26 on the season, with all of the misses coming from inside 50 yards.