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December 26, 2012

Dolphins' priority in free agency/draft should be... (poll) Vote! plus team's new logo?, Heat's statement win, NFL pix 'n fantasy, meaning of Christmas & more

1aa1dollogo[1) It is FRIDAY, DEC. 28. New blogpost coming later this morning! 2) Pictured right is either the Dolphins' new logo, something similar to it, or an Internet contrivance. Prez Mike Dee says club is exploring possible changes, with decision due by draft in spring. 3) Find our annual Christmas video in the blogpost directly below this newest one. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Wake named to Pro Bowl: DE Cameron Wake is the only Dolphin named to this season's AFC Pro Bowl squad. Somewhat suprising is the omission of punter Brandon Fields, the only Dolphin to lead at his position in the fan vote.

ZEROING IN ON THE DOLPHINS' GREATEST NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: As a playoffless season ebbs we look ahead. Free agency will find the Dolphins with a lot of salary-cap dough to spend. (Does anybody 1aa1fa 1aa1fa2still refer to money as dough?) Likewise the draft will find Miami will a ton of picks including five in the first three rounds. Big, big opportunity for this team to get much better, fast, if smart decisions are made. Let's help Jeff Ireland, shall we? Set his priorities. In this poll I have identified three greatest areas of need. One is a dynamic, field-stretching wide receiver, because Brian Hartline (solid, fine, nice) is not a No. 1 guy. Another need is a really good cover-corner because your secondary is better when Sean Smith is your second-best corner. And another need is another big sack threat to augment Cameron Wake. You might have a different priority in mind. All things equal, what is the team's biggest need? Vote and say why.

Brady on facing Miami: On a conference call Patriots QB Tom Brady said this as the season finale against Miami up there approaches: "This is a time for us to be at our best." New England is coming off a loss to San Francisco followed by a lackluster win over Jacksonville. Pats wil be looking for momentum as well as still fighting for a first-round bye. Except full-effort Patriots including a heavy dose of Brady and other stars.

DON'T YOU GO WORRYIN' ABOUT THE HEAT: I think that was the bottom-line message from Miami's 103-97 Christmas Day victory here over Oklahoma City, a gift to South Florida. It was a 2012 NBA Finals rematch and plausible-even-likely 2013 Finals preview, and it was delicious to watch. Kevin Durant (33 points) and LeBron James (29) put on the show you expected, and Mario Chalmers stepped up big like maybe you didn't expect. The Heat will have more results this regular-season that make you wonder, but reel your mind back to early evening on Christmas Day and remember this is the team ready to defend its title when the time comes. 

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: Pretty great on the pix, and consolation (at least) in fantasy. NFL predix: We went 1aa1fripix12-4 straight-up and also 12-4 against the spread on our Friday page predictions to continue our strong finish ATS. Bull's-eyed our Upset of the Week with Ravens over Giants ("Aawwk!") and hit another outright upset with Chargers over Jets. Also had 'dog Bengals and Vikes with the points, and hit a rare exact score with 'Skins' 27-20 win over Philly. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos ended strong to finish 6-10 and fifth in our six-team family league. Won our consolation playoff finale, 165-137, behind Aaron Rodgers' 38 points and 32 from Reggie Bush.

HOW GOOD IS UM MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM?: Coach Jim Larranaga's guys were 7-1 and poised to maybe rattle into the Top 25s, but a 1-2 finish in the Christmas tournament in Hawaii has left you wondering. Losing to No. 4 Arizona was no shame, but the loss to Indiana State? The ACC schedule starts Jan. 5. I have read speculation Miami could be a Sweet 16 team. Prove it, Canes.

Poll result: Canes' 5 football championships most define Miami sports: This result surprised me, and very few of our poll results do. We asked in a previous blogpost what accomplishment most defines Miami sports, and UM's five national championships had 46.3 percent, a clear winner over the Dolphins' two Super Bowls with 30.0%. (I thought the Dolphins would win.) The Heat's two titles had 17.7%, the Marlins' two World Series 3.7, and "something else" 2.3%.

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: I neither embrace nor decry the commercialism of Christmas. I enjoy giving gifts and making people smile; I also enjoy getting gifts, such as the surprise from my wife of two tickets to see Tony Bennett perform here in February. (Oh, and that new set of All-Clad pots and pans, which to a dedicated home cook like myself is exciting.) But the deeper meaning of Christmas struck me -- and I'm sure millions of others on this holiday -- in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Our hearts and thoughts were with the dozens of families there to whom Christmas was something that couldn't be celebrated, just coped with. You were reminded that the gifts you unwrap are fine, but that the love of family is anybody's best gift. The grace before our holiday meal mentioned as much, and I hope those families in Newtown somehow felt the support for them from all over the country.

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