FOXBORO -- The Patriots have gone through a logistical grind this season.
Beginning August 22 when the team flew to Tampa, the Patriots were on the road for five out of six games before the end of September.
In October, they flew back and forth to Seattle. Then, after a week in Foxboro, they flew to London to play St. Louis before flying home through the winds of Hurricane Sandy.
They had their Thursday night game against the Jets in prime time on Thanksgiving.
That kicked off a stretch of three night games out of four which will conclude Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers.
High-class problems? No doubt. The Bills, for instance, don't get many prime-time gigs.
The excuse of tough scheduling and travel is there for the Patriots. Not only do they refuse to use it, they try to completely ignore it.
One of the reasons the Patriots are 10-3 (and the three losses are by a total of four points) is that they have the ultimate nerd at quarterback.
Tom Brady started preparing for the 49ers before he'd eaten his Thanksgiving turkey.
"After our Thursday night game against the Jets, I tried to do a bunch of work on the Niners," Brady said Wednesday morning. "So I put a couple of days in there and actually after the game on Monday night, I felt like I just had to watch their most recent game and I was caught up. So, you try to take advantage of a little extra time, a little planning. I probably wouldnt have done that 10 years ago."
There's a lot to get ready for with the Niners. They have a hard-hitting secondary with safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson and defensive linemen Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks) and Justin Smith. They have one of the league's best linebacking groups anchored by Patrick Willis.
Brady long ago realized that the burden of preparation that's on a quarterback is light years beyond what his teammates have to handle. Which, as they say, is why he gets paid the big bucks.
"Its probably most important for the quarterback position," Brady acknowledged. "I dont think the receivers are necessarily doing that. They study what they need to study. I kind of have my own routine and preparation. A lot of guys prepare differently. I know Matt Light, who we honored at halftime last week, didnt watch much film at all. He said it screwed him up. Hes one of the best players Ive ever played with, so theres something to be said about that too."
Among the myriad reasons it's hard to sustain success in the NFL is the simple fact that, the better your team is, the harder everything gets. The schedule. The media attention. The travel. The time constraints. The effort every opponent brings.
Asked about the difficulty of preparing for an unfamiliar opponent on a short week, Brady said, "Its all about mental toughness. I think thats what it comes down to. You have those situations where you might not feel great or youre flying a long way, but youve got to eliminate all of those distractions and everything. Youve got to put it behind you and youre competing against that team: that team is the opponent.
"This week its the 49ers," he added. "Its not the weather, its not the rest, its not the crowd its the 49ers. I think as long as you stay focused on them and you focus on what you need to do against them, then you let those other things really take care of themselves. The more you waste energy worrying about a plane flight or weather conditions, its really a waste of time. Youve got to focus on your opponent because whatever youre dealing with, theyre dealing with the same stuff."
Not exactly. But, as Brady points out, why bother with what's on the Niners plate. New England has enough stuff to get through itself.