Consecutive December victories give the Miami Dolphins reason to hope they'll be playing for higher stakes at this time next year.
The Dolphins began preparations Monday for a mostly meaningless season finale disappointed they'll again sit out the playoffs but buoyed by recent signs of progress. Miami (7-8) beat Buffalo 24-10 Sunday, then was eliminated from the postseason race minutes later when Cincinnati claimed the final AFC playoff berth by beating Pittsburgh.
''We're building a foundation that is going to deliver excellent football teams here in the future,'' first-year coach Joe Philbin said. ''And it takes time.''
The Dolphins will be playoff spectators for the 10th time in 11 years. Other negative streaks will also continue - 39 years without a Super Bowl title, 28 years without a Super Bowl berth, and 20 years since Miami last played in the AFC championship game.
The best the Dolphins can hope for in 2012 is to avoid a fourth consecutive losing season by winning Sunday...