Setting the scene: Patriots-Dolphins
|12.30.12 at 1:00 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bitter cold and blustery conditions are expected for Sunday’s regular season finale between the Patriots and Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-20s with a wind chill of 12 degrees for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but was moved back by the NFL last week when it became clear that the Patriots would be playing for a possible playoff bye.
The Colts are hosting the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in the return of head coach Chuck Pagano to the sidelines. The Colts have never lost at home to Houston. If the Colts win in the 1 p.m. game, the Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Dolphins. The Patriots can clinch a No. 1 seed if the Colts beat the Texans and the Chiefs upset the Broncos in Denver, a game that will be played simultaneously with the Patriots-Dolphins contest.
The Patriots may have the services of tight end Rob Gronkowski for the first time since Nov. 18, as reports surfaced Saturday that Gronk was on schedule to return. However, CSNNE.com’s Tom Curran reported Sunday morning that the Patriots were having serious second thoughts and the decision to activate him for the season finale had not been finalized.
The final decision won’t likely be known for sure until inactives are released at 2:55 p.m., 90 minutes before kickoff.
The Patriots will have the services of defensive end Jermaine Cunningham for the first time since New England’s Thanksgiving night massacre of the Jets. Cunningham was suspended the following Monday for four games for violation of the NFL PED policy. The Patriots officially activated Cunningham to the 53-man roster Saturday, waiving defensive lineman and former second-round pick Ron Brace to make room.
The Patriots also signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken and defensive back Malcolm Williams off the practice squad and they will be eligible to play in the regular season finale if active.
Some nuggets for today:
The Patriots need just one first down to set a new NFL record as they come into the game with 416 first downs on the season, 139 by rushing, 241 by passing and 36 by penalty. They enter the game sharing the mark with the 2011 New Orleans Saints. Patriots opponents have just 324.
The Dolphins will likely end the season with a 1,000-yard rusher, a 1,000-yard receiver, a 3,000-yard passer, one player with at least 15 sacks, and two with 100 tackles apiece.
If running back Reggie Bush rushes for 60 yards and linebacker Kevin Burnett gets one tackle, they will achieve the feat. Bush and Burnett would join wide receiver Brian Hartline (1,014 yards receiving), quarterback Ryan Tannehill (3,059 yards passing), defensive end Cameron Wake (15 sacks) and linebacker Karlos Dansby (121 tackles) to complete the list.
The Patriots will honor the longtime announcing duo of Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti in a pregame ceremony at 4:00 p.m. Santos and Cappelletti were the voices of Patriots football for 28 years before Cappelletti announced his retirement in July. Santos later announced 2012 would be his final season. This is Santos’ 36th season and the regular season finale marks his 743rd Patriots game behind the mic. Santos called games from 1966 through 1979. He returned in 1991 and has been called Patriots games ever since.
Cappelletti is a member of the original Boston Patriots in 1960 and began calling games in 1972 with Santos. He stayed there through 1978 before leaving to join Ron Erhardt’s staff in 1979. He returned in 1988 and remained there through the 2011 season.
If the Patriots win today, they will complete just their second perfect season in the AFC East, joining the 2007 Patriots who went 6-0 in the division. The Patriots had just one loss in the division in seven other seasons, including 2010 and 2011.