Tom Brady is preparing for another home playoff game this weekend in what has felt like a given for most of the last two decades.
There are differences now, though. Brady is playing in a wild-card game, something he hasn't participated in a decade. And he's doing so while on the final year of a contract that very well could be his last in New England.
At 42 years old, Brady isn't thinking about such details, or the last two decades of his career. He's just trying to earn another playoff victory.
"I'm not much for nostalgia," Brady said Thursday, via ESPN. "I'm just pretty focused on what I need to do. This week has felt pretty much like every other week for the last 20 years."
Those 20 years have been historic and unprecedented, a stretch in which he's won six Super Bowls and nine AFC Championships. It's worth revisiting -- just not now, according to Brady.
He'll save that for when his Patriots career is finished. He's said he wants to play to 45, leaving three more seasons to complete to achieve such a goal. It's possible -- it just might not happen in New England.
Brady's contract voids at the end of the 2019 league year, and it includes a provision that won't allow him to be franchise tagged, meaning he's headed for free agency unless the two sides agree on a new extension. That's still possible, but so is his departure.
"I haven't thought about those things," Brady said. "I wouldn't be thinking about those things anyway. It's felt like a normal week for me. I just approach practice like I always have, and try to do the best I can do. That's what I'm going to do this weekend as well."
His Patriots aren't exactly cruising into the postseason, falling to Miami in a Week 17 upset that surprisingly landed them in the wild-card round. That means they'll have to win three games to reach the Super Bowl, something they haven't done in the Brady/Bill Belichick era, in which they own a 3-3 record in bye-less postseasons. They'll have to do so with a version of Brady who just finished his worst second half of a season in his career by three key metrics: completion percentage (56.9), passing yards per attempt (5.9) and passer rating (80.8).
He'll also have to do so with his team's defense facing a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who currently owns the most head-to-head wins over Brady (4) among all active quarterbacks. There's a reason to be confident in that defense, though: The 2019 Patriots are the fourth team to allow 20 or fewer offensive touchdowns and intercept 25-plus passes in the last 25 seasons, per NFL Research. The previous three teams each went on to win the Super Bowl (2013 Seahawks, 2002 Buccaneers, 1996 Packers).
All of that doesn't matter to Brady, who isn't even turning on his TV to hear our nonsense.
"It's playoff football," Brady said. "Everyone knows what's at stake. You certainly have to earn it to move on," he said. "A lot of plays come up over the years when I think about playoff football. If you're on the wrong end of one of them, it's your season. If you're on the right end, you move on. You don't know which play that's going to be. You can't take anything for granted. Guys are working hard and trying to do the right thing."