---- — :PATRIOTS (8-3) vs. DOLPHINS (5-6)
:Today, 1 p.m., at Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fl.
:TV: Ch. 4 (Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf)
Radio: 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos and Scott Zolak)
The series: Miami leads 50-43, but Patriots have won four straight and seven of the last eight. Previous meeting: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24, Dec. 24, 2011, in Foxboro Las Vegas line: Patriots -7; Over-under total: 51.5
2012 STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
7-3 Record 5-6
1st, AFC East Standings 2nd, AFC East
435.8 (1) Offense 321.3 (26)
143.7 (6) Rushing 108.9 (16)
292.1 (4) Passing 212.4 (22)
390.2 (27) Defense 358.5 (20)
100.8 (10) Rushing 96.7 (7)
289.4 (29) Passing 261.7 (26)
+24 Turnover margin -10
BY THE NUMBERS
.860 – Bill Belichick’s December winning percentage as a head coach (43-7).
75 – Catches for Wes Welker in nine career games against his previous employer. Welker has rolled up 981 receiving yards and four TDs vs. Miami.
7 – Times Patriots have been undefeated in December since 2001. That includes four of the last five years.
-10 – Miami’s takeaway/giveaway ratio, which is tied for 27th. The Pats lead the NFL at +24.
22 – Catches on third down for Miami chain-mover Davone Bess, one fewer than Wes Welker. They are fourth and fifth overall in the NFL.
24 – Touchdowns this year for the Dolphins, less than half of New England’s total of 49.
Keys for Patriots
1. Don’t fix anything – Since the first Jets game, I’ve been telling you that Tom Brady has been competing at an ungodly level. Nice to see the rest of you are catching up. Let the big fella keep doing what he’s doing. Don’t tweak the offense one bit.
2. Keep the heat on – The Pats defense has brought more pressure recently, that’s a good thing. I don’t care if they are good or not, any defense that sits back will be solved. The defense which makes the QB at least feel a little pressure will get the needed stops.
3. Stay healthy – They already have lost some key pieces like Hernandez, Gronkowski, Mankins, Vollmer.
Hector Longo’s prediction: Patriots 34, Dolphins 13 (7-4 straight up; 3-8 vs. the spread)
Analysis: Look at the personnel of the Dolphins, and the numbers they’ve put up on both sides of the football. They’re very similar to the New York Jets. And we saw on Thanksgiving how the Pats treated the New Yorkers. No miracles here. Now it’s time to watch what the Ravens and Texans are up to as the Pats continue to chase that elusive playoff bye.