Game info: Patriots vs. Dolphins

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Game info: Patriots vs. Dolphins

GAME TIME: 1 p.m. EST

TV NETWORK: CBS

TV ANNOUNCERS: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf

RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Gil Santos and Scott Zolak

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Dolphins lead, 50-43

LAST MEETING: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24 on Dec. 24, 2011 at Gillette Stadium

The Patriots will clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East title with a victory. The Pats have won 9 of the last 11 AFC East championships (in the other two seasons, they finished tied for first but lost on tie-breakers) and 14 division titles overall.

If the Patriots win, they will earn their 12th straight winning season. Only the 49ers (1983-98) and Cowboys (1970-85), with 16 straight winning seasons, have had longer stretches than 11. New England enters this week tied with the Raiders (1970-80) for the third-longest streak in NFL history.

The Patriots are an NFL-best 41-5 in the month of the December since 2001.

Bill Belichick is 43-7 (.860) in December with the Patriots, the best record in December among head coaches with one team in NFL history (minimum 25 games). George Seifert (San Francisco) is second (27-6, .818).

Since the 2010 season, the Patriots are 19-0 in the second half. In both 2010 and 2011, the Patriots were 8-0 in the second half of the season. Their last loss was in the 2009 season-finale at Houston, a 34-27 loss, on Jan. 3, 2010.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Bill Belichick (200) needs one more win to tie Dan Reeves as the seventh-winningest NFL coach of all time.

With one touchdown pass against the Dolphins, Tom Brady will extend his streak to 44 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and continue his third-longest streak all time, behind Drew Brees (54) and Johnny Unitas (47).

Brady has 52 career 300-yard games in the regular season. He needs one more to break a tie with Kurt Warner for fifth place all time.

Brady (3,671) needs 16 completions to move past Fran Tarkenton (3,686) into ninth place on the NFLs all-time completion list. Vinny Testaverde is in eighth place with 3,787 completions.

Stephen Gostkowski (7-of-10 from 50 or more yards) needs one more 50-yard field goal to tie Adam Vinatieri (8-of-17) for most 50-yard field goals in Patriots history. Gostkowski has two 50-yarders so far in 2012 and can become the first Patriots player with three 50-yard field goals in a single season.

Jerod Mayo needs to have a 10-plus tackle game against the Dolphins for his 10th game in 2012 and his sixth straight game with 10 or more tackles.

Rob Ninkovich has a team-leading five forced fumbles, tying Mike Vrabel (2007) for the most forced fumbles for a Patriots player within the last 20 years.

Stevan Ridley (939) needs 61 yards rushing to reach 1,000 yards and give New England its 15th 1,000-yard rushing season. He will be the 12th Patriots player to reach 1,000 yards and first since BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2010.

Wes Welker (16) needs one more 10-plus catch game to break a second place tie with Marvin Harrison (15) and tie Jerry Rice (17) for the most 10-catch games in NFL history.

Welker (961) needs 39 receiving yards for his fifth career 1,000-yard season.

More bad blood ahead for Celtics vs Wizards series?

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More bad blood ahead for Celtics vs Wizards series?

On this episode of "The Best of Boston Sports Tonight Podcast", Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles break down the Celtics closing out the Bulls and preview the next round against Washington with Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. Also, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry break down the Patriots two picks on Friday.

  • 0:41 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith discuss the Celtics defeating the Bulls 105-83, beating Chicago in 6 games to advance in the 2nd round of the playoffs.
  • 6:14 - Kyle Draper and Chris Mannix preview the upcoming series against the Washington Wizards and the bad blood between the two teams.
  • 10:19 - Mike Giardi and Phil Perry break down the Patriots first drafts picks, selecting DE Derek Rivers from Youngstown and OT Antonio Garcia from Troy in the 3rd round.
  • 15:45 - Hear what Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley had to say after the win. Also, A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the feeling in the Celtics locker room after the win.

Patriots third-rounder Rivers takes winding road to Foxboro

Patriots third-rounder Rivers takes winding road to Foxboro

FOXBORO -- There was not much room for debate as far as this was concerned: Derek Rivers was among the most physically-impressive defensive ends in a draft class loaded at that position.

That begs the question, then, how did the Patriots have the opportunity to draft Rivers at No. 83 overall in the third round? 

The short answer is that he went to Youngstown State, an FCS school, and those players usually don't come off the board early.

But that answer only leads to more questions, as in, how did someone with the athleticism Rivers possesses end up at Youngstown in the first place? And why did he stay?

At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds Rivers was among the top defensive line performers at this year's combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, which was good for fourth at his position group. His 30 bench reps of 225 pounds were also fourth among defensive linemen, and tied him with Solomon Thomas (the No. 3 overall pick who weighed 273 pounds in Indy).

Rivers also checked in with the ninth-best broad jump for defensive linemen (123 inches), the fifth-best vertical (35 inches), and the third-best three-cone drill (6.94 seconds).

Those kinds of athletes don't typically end up at Youngstown State. They usually end up a couple hundred miles down the road in Columbus.

"Out of high school, I was a non-qualifier, so I didn’t get my SATs, and then I was just a late bloomer," said Rivers, who was 182 pounds near the end of his sophomore year in high school, according to Vindy.com. "I wasn’t very heavily recruited so I went to Fork Union [Military Academy] and then Youngstown came and they offered me. I was just ready to play ball."

Rivers may have been able to head to a bigger program after emerging for Youngstown as a sophomore with 14 sacks (fifth in FCS that year) and 17 tackles for a loss. But he stayed, and he continued to dominate. As a junior he had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. As a senior he had 14 sacks and a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss.

Feeling devoted to the program that gave him a chance, Rivers remained and had the opportunity to work under coach Bo Pelini for each of the last two seasons. 

Pelini, a former Nebraska head coach and former Patriots linebackers coach under Pete Carroll (1997-99), may have in a roundabout way helped Rivers land in New England. Pelini and Bill Belichick seem to have a good relationship -- Belichick is now coaching two of Pelini's former players in Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead -- and Belichick referenced the coaching Rivers received under Pelini as one of the reasons why Rivers is ready for the NFL. 

When asked about Pelini during his conference call with Patriots reporters, Rivers seemed to agree. 

"Bo was awesome, man. He was like another father to me as far as when he came to Youngstown," Rivers said. "I mean, he took our team to another level. Just the little things that he focused on as far as accountability, doing all the little things right. I mean, those were the things that Bo emphasized, and those were the things that Bo instilled in me."

Rivers added: "The first thing that Coach Bo said in his first meeting with us when he got to Youngstown was that he was like, ‘What you do off the field is going to reflect on how you play on the field.’

"I was a non-qualifier in high school. At Youngstown, I’m probably going to graduate with a 3.0, and it makes sense. If you’re lazy off the field, you’re going to be lazy on the field. If you miss assignments in class, you may miss assignments on the field, so they translate."

Even though even though he's not coming from Alabama or Florida State, even though he took a bit of a circuitous route to get there, in his first night with the team Rivers sure sounded like someone who's been on the fast track to Foxboro for years.