Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. (turf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: New England by 10
Forecast: Temperatures in the 20s
Records: Patriots (11-4; AFC East 5-0); Miami (7-8; AFC East 2-3)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 2, 2012: Patriots 23, Dolphins 16. Dec. 12, 2011: Patriots 27, Miami 24. Series record: Dolphins hold a 50-44 edge.
What matters: A first-round bye in the playoffs is still within reach if the Patriots beat Miami and either the Houston Texans (vs. Indianapolis, 1 p.m.) or the Denver Broncos (vs. Kansas City, 4:25 p.m.) lose. But nothing is guaranteed. Miami gave the Pats a tough game earlier this month and held QB Tom Brady to a mediocre performance (24 of 40, 238 yards, one touchdown, one interception), so New England needs to be careful not to get caught scoreboard watching.
Who matters: We’ll eventually be able to list something new in this spot, but for now the Rob Gronkowski watch continues. The New England tight end participated in all three practices and reported that he’s feeling fine after suffering a broken forearm Nov. 18. The final hurdle is getting a clean bill of health from the training staff. … DE Jermaine Cunningham could also make a return this week, his coming from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Veteran Trevor Scott and undrafted rookie Justin Francis played well while Cunningham was out, so it will be interesting to see if he immediately reclaims his spot as the top reserve.
Key matchup: DE Cameron Wake got the better of OT Sebastian Vollmer in the last matchup, so this will be key area to watch this week. Really, Miami won the battle at the line of scrimmage throughout the entire contest and kept New England’s running game bottled up until the fourth quarter. New England needs to turn the tables this time around.
Inside stuff: The Patriots filtered their attack down the middle of the field in the last contest with Brady throwing just 16 of his 40 passes outside the numbers. This approach resulted in WR Brandon Lloyd being targeted just once.
Connections: Miami TE Will Yeatman spent training camp with the Patriots as rookie in 2011. … WR Wes Welker began his career with the Dolphins. … Miami originally drafted Pats OL Donald Thomas in 2008. … Patriots DL Rob Ninkovich played for the Dolphins from 2007-2008. … LB Mike Rivera had two stints with the Dolphins.
Stat you should know: Coach Bill Belichick is 46-8 in December with the Patriots, the best mark among head coaches with one team in NFL history. Former 49ers coach George Seifert is second with a 27-6 record.
Looking ahead: It’s off to the playoffs. The rest of the details are yet to be determined.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Miami 20