Welcome to Gillette Stadium
December, 30, 2012
By Mike Rodak | ESPNBoston.com
Mike Rodak/ESPNBoston.comFOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Welcome to Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots wrap up their regular season against the Miami Dolphins(CBS, 4:25 p.m.):
Weather conditions. About six inches of snow fell in the region last night, but you'd hardly be able to tell. The field is nearly spotless, while workers continue to clear snow from the seats. Meanwhile, it will be the coldest game of the season to date for the Patriots. The current temperature is 28 degrees, and temperatures will drop into the low 20s into the evening. Wind could be a factor, with gusts of up to 40 mph expected. Wind chills will be in the single digits.
Gil & Gino to be honored. Today will be Gil Santos' last regular season game as the play-by-play voice of the Patriots. It's his 36th and final season in the job, and he will be joined by former broadcast partner Gino Cappelletti in a pre-game ceremony. Cappelletti, who retired after last season, will return to the radio booth to call the first drive of the game.
All eyes on Gronk. With tight end Rob Gronkowski expected to suit up for the first time since breaking his forearm on Nov. 18, the biggest question will be how much he plays, not if he plays. Otherwise, the Patriots will need to declare seven inactives by 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Some players that might not dress include cornerback Marquice Cole (doubtful; finger) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (questionable; knee/ankle).
Scoreboard watching. In classic Week 17 fashion, Sunday won't just be about the game in Foxboro. At 1 p.m., the Indianapolis Colts will host in the Houston Texans in the game that could have the biggest implications for the Patriots' playoff positioning. If the Texans lose, then the Patriots will simply need to defeat the Dolphins at 4:25 p.m. to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. All eyes will be on that game, which could affect New England's approach later in the day.
Boger gets the call. Ninth-year official Jerome Boger will be today's referee. He last officiated a Patriots game in Week 12 of last season, when the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles.
Scouts in the house. Scouts from the Bengals, Texans, Ravens and Colts are scheduled to be in attendance for today's game. That is standard operating procedure as all are possible playoff foes. It is notable that the Broncos are the only AFC playoff team not represented.