FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with head coach Bill Belichick before playing against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won the game 31-27. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tom Brady
Tom Brady returned to practice Thursday. He sat out Wednesday's session to the consternation of -- well, those folks who are unaccustomed to the veteran quarterback taking a day off during the week. He'll be fine when the Ravens come to Foxboro on Sunday in what will be the Patriots' toughest test of the season.
“It’s not the first practice I’ve missed over the years,” said Brady. “Coming off a game on Saturday or Sunday, you’re just doing everything you can to be prepared. When Coach [Bill Belichick] feels it’s best to do other things to get yourself ready, that’s what you do. You can still use all that time very wisely. You’re not lounging around taking naps or anything like that. You’re just putting in extra work, and make sure you’re getting prepared. …
“When I miss a practice, you know, you just try to do others thing to get yourself ready to go,” he continued. “So, catch up on your film work, get some extra treatment and so forth. It’s just a matter of being as prepared as we can for Sunday. I’ll certainly be as prepared as I possibly can be.”
It's been lost in the revelry, but New England's defense is still among the league's worst. That's not news, necessarily, but this is: the Patriots' high-powered offense orchestrated by Brady, has had impressive showings this season, none more recent than Saturday's beatdown of the Broncos. But here's something you may not know: through 16 regular-season games and a divisional playoff matchup, the Pats haven't yet beaten a team with a winning record. Look it up.
Denver won the division with an 8-8 record. And the three New England losses came against the Steelers (12-4), the Giants (9-7) and the Jets (8-8). The 13 wins were all against teams that were either at or looking up at .500. But hey, you can only play the team's on the schedule and New England did that better than any other AFC team.
But they'll face one of the league's best defenses against Baltimore. ESPN's Steve Young says that "Brady is playing as great as Tom Brady has ever played," which we couldn't say when the two teams met in the wild-card game following the 2009 season. More from Young:
He's a completion guru," he said. "I think this game is going to be all about making sure his completion percentage is in that 70 percent range, because if it is, that means there's a lot of short third down conversions and I think you can take advantage and dictate to a very good defense like the Baltimore Ravens. …When the Ravens can dictate back to you, is when you are third and 10 and you're not making those completions."