The stage is set for yet another matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots squaring off in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. Manning and the Broncos are prohibitive (-7) favorites. And Brady is totally fine with that.
Speaking on his weekly WEEI spot in Boston, Brady, via Tom Curran of CSN New England, said that he understands "no one's gonna pick" the Pats this week.
"I know different times coach will make us aware of [outside opinions]," Brady said. "I know when we played Baltimore no one picked us to win and no one's gonna pick us to win this week."
This won't be entirely true. I'm leaning towards picking the Pats (SPOILER) and I'd venture a guess that I'm not the only one who'll do so. New England did beat Denver earlier this year, after all.
But most people will probably pick Denver. And that puts the Pats right where they want to be.
"We've had our backs against the wall for a while, really the whole season," Brady said. "We've lost players and teams have really counted us out. We've got a bunch of underdogs on our team and we'll be underdogs again. We'll see how that shakes out at the end of the week. But we're as tough and physical as we've ever been and we're gonna go out and play this game and that's a great challenge for us to ... go in there and try to beat 'em."
What's made the Patriots such an interesting team this season -- and in the playoffs as Jason La Canfora pointed out -- is their ability to evolve. With Rob Gronkowski out, Wes Welker gone and Aaron Hernandez in jail, they're suddenly a ground-and-pound team that relies on LeGarrette Blount as a feature back.
It's weird. But it's also what Bill Belichick's done his entire career. Which is why counting out the Pats to win on Sunday would be foolish. Though it's exactly what they prefer you would do.