FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be playing an unfamiliar role Sunday evening Kansas City: underdogs.
The Chiefs are pegged as three-point home favorites over the Patriots in the AFC Championship, making this the first time New England has not been favored in a game since Week 1 of the 2016 season.
Jimmy Garoppolo was the Patriots’ quarterback for that contest, which New England won 23-21 at Arizona. The last time a Brady-led Patriots team was not favored was against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13 of the 2014 season (26-21 loss at Lambeau), and the last time the Pats were underdogs in the postseason was at Denver in the 2013 AFC Championship Game (26-16 loss).
Brady certainly seemed to embrace the underdog persona when he told CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson “Everyone thinks we suck” after the Patriots steamrolled the Los Angeles Chargers 48-21 in the divisional round on Sunday.
The 41-year-old quarterback took a more subdued approach in his Wednesday afternoon news conference, initially attempting to sidestep a question about the point spread.
“I don’t think about it too much, what people might say or think,” said Brady, who will be playing in his 13th AFC title game and eighth in the last eight years. “We’re playing against a good football team. They’re the first seed for a reason.”
Prompted again later in the presser, Brady relented, giving a more diplomatic version of his fiery postgame proclamation.
“It doesn’t change much for us, but it just shows you what people would think about what our chances are,” Brady said with a smile. “That’s about it. No more added comment to that.”
Brady was quick to note, though, that no one competing in a conference title game should require any extra motivation beyond the desire to reach the Super Bowl.
“I mean, if you’re not motivated this week, you’ve got a major problem,” he said. “This is the week where you shouldn’t have to put anything extra in. This is what it’s all about. You sign up any chance you get to play in the AFC Championship Game. I don’t care where, when, time, cold weather, rain, blood — don’t matter.”
Sunday’s game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs have lost just once this season. The Patriots are 3-5 in away games, their worst road mark since 2009.
“I just look at those games individually. I know why we haven’t won those games individually. I don’t think it’s a broad, sweeping thing. It was a little bit in each game. And I think the point of that is this is not the week to have less than our best.
“It’s a tough game. It’s a tough challenge. It’s tough to beat the No. 1 seed on the road. I mean, that’s the reality, just like we’re tough to beat at home when we’re the No. 1 seed. It takes a lot. It takes a lot of good football. … I think everyone at every position has to play well.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports