Tom Brady thinks the Patriots will be considered underdogs against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Sunday's AFC Championship Game and says that winning in Denver would be "as satisfying a victory" as he's had during his illustrious career.
"I think we've overcome a lot of things, a lot of injuries, we've had some amazing comebacks to get to this situation where we finished the regular season 12-4 with a lot of players filling some big roles over the course of the year," Brady told the "Dennis & Callahan Show" on WEEI sports radio in Boston on Monday morning.
"And then to having really played our best football the last three weeks, and now to get a chance to go play one of the best teams in the league, it's everything you could ask for. This is what football is all about."
Sunday will mark the second meeting between New England and Denver this season. The Patriots upended the Broncos in overtime at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 24 in one of the most memorable games during the regular season, erasing a 24-point first-half deficit.
Brady stressed that game's outcome will have no bearing on Sunday's rematch.
"This game is going to come down to who plays the best," he said. "And we'll be able to take some things that we did when we played and study them and prepare for them, but we'll have different things to do, they'll have different things to do.
"Their team is different than when they played us, and we're pretty different than when we played them."
Unlike the first matchup, this game will be in Denver, as the Broncos earned the top seed in the AFC after finishing with a 13-3 regular-season record, one game better than the second-seeded Patriots.
The Patriots were 8-0 at home and added a win against the Colts in the AFC divisional round Saturday night. But they've struggled on the road, finishing 4-4 in games away from Gillette Stadium this season.
Brady isn't focused on the location of the game, a message he says coach Bill Belichick is also conveying to players this week.
"Some team has gotta play at home, and it happens to be them," he said. "I think what Coach talked about is how we play, not where we play. No question about it. How we're going to play is what's going to determine the outcome of the game. I hope we play our very best. That's what it's going to take."
Manning and the Broncos surpassed several records set by Brady and the Patriots in the 2007 regular season. Manning eclipsed Brady's record for touchdown passes in a season, and Denver scored more points than any other team in league history.
The Broncos opened as five-point favorites, and Brady doesn't expect the Patriots to have many backers this week.
"Truthfully, I don't turn the TV on, I don't read anything," Brady said. "I just try to focus on what I need to do and, like I said, put all that stuff around us -- I know different times, Coach will make us aware of, I know when we played Baltimore nobody picked us to win, and I'm sure no one is going to pick us to win this week."
But that's OK by Brady, who described the Patriots as underdogs by nature.
"We've got a bunch of underdogs on our team and we'll be an underdog again, and we'll see how that shapes up at the end of the week," Brady said. "But I know we're as tough, as physical as we've ever been, and that's how we're going to need to go out and play this game."