FOXBORO -- The Patriots are not Vegas playoff darlings for the first time in eight years. Not since New England faced the Peyton Manning-led Colts in the 2006 has New England been an underdog in a postseason game.
Quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning he's not worried about it. His teammates fell in line just a few hours later.
"If Tom's going to embrace it, I'm going to embrace it," LeGarrette Blount smiled. "That's the leader of this team, so if that's how he feels, I'm sure that's how most of the guys out here feel."
Agreed Danny Amendola: "I mean, I like to think that way. In our room -- I can speak for our room -- we like to play with a chip on our shoulder. We're just looking to have a good week of preparation and go about it that way."
Perhaps the reason that doubt doesn't bother the Patriots is because they've been dealing with it all season. The team has sustained several season-ending injuries to key players --- Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, Rob Gronkowski -- over the year. With each roster hit, it seemed expectations for New England got a little lower.
Yet the Patriots surpassed them.
They went 5-1 in their last six games to finish 12-4 on the regular season. They are playing Denver, a team they beat November 24, for a chance to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Which is not to say they don't get the opposition's hype.
"It's an away game. They're a good football team," safety Steve Gregory said. "Once that football's kicked off, we just have to go out there and play sound, and play better than they do in order to beat them. Nothing else really matters."
Not even the numbers.
The Broncos have better stats in nearly every offensive category: Total yards per game, passing yards per game, third down conversion percentage, time of possession. And it's that different in points per game -- 37.9 for Denver compared to 27.8 for New England -- that signifies consistency. The Broncos may have only one more game this season, but their wins were more decisive.
To some, that's important. To the Patriots, it's the past.
"Whoever they pick, they pick," Gregory shrugged. "The game's going to be played on Sunday and nobody really knows what's going to happen. It's two very good football teams who are going to go at it. We'll see who gets it at the end."