FOXBOROUGH -- Like any seasoned pro, Tom Brady watched closely as the Jacksonville Jaguars pushed a heap of chips toward the middle of the table and placed a sizable bet on their disrespected hand.
After making his read (and what quarterback is better at making reads?), Brady decided to not just call the bet, he raised . . . all in.
Not that Brady thinks the Jaguars are bluffing about being disrespected -- how could he, considering he played barely a quarter against the Dolphins Sunday, as the Patriots didn't try for a win that would have meant not playing Jacksonville in the first round of the playoffs? -- he just feels he and the Patriots, the two-time defending Super Bowl champions, have the better hand when it comes to not getting r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
''I think we've been probably disrespected more than any team in the league this year," Brady said yesterday at his weekly news conference. ''I think we've been given up on by a lot of media people, a lot of fans, our own fans, and other people around the league.
''I think if there's one team that feels like they're disrespected, it's us.
''I don't disrespect Jacksonville. How do you disrespect a team that's 12-4? If we were 12-4, it would be different. I think people gave up on us a long time ago, so, we'll see what that means."
Well, it probably means nothing, but it is a sign that the Patriots are gearing up for the postseason. They enter the playoffs knowing that only one team walks away with all the chips.
Brady is 9-0 in the postseason. Jacksonville counterparts Byron Leftwich (out since Nov. 27 with an ankle injury) and David Garrard have never played in a playoff game.
That apparently bodes well for the Patriots. Apparently.
''It doesn't really matter," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ''It's how we play this week against Jacksonville. That's the only thing that matters.
''I don't think it's that important what anybody did against somebody else, some other year or some other time on some other team. What is important is how we match up against Jacksonville and how we play Saturday night. That goes for [Brady], me, and everybody else."
Leave it to Belichick's bunch to accept Santayana's cautionary quote as good philosophy. They forget history in hopes of being ''condemned" to repeat it, again and again. And it works.
''History doesn't do anything for this game," Brady said. ''I don't care if you look back last year at what we did. This year is entirely different, the style of play is different, and we were playing different. Anyone who's looking back 17 games ago is only setting yourself up for failure.
''I'm looking to see what we can do this week. It's a one-game season for us. It's all about what we can do in preparation and ultimately we can go out and execute in the game. We're not going to win because we show up; I think that is ridiculous."
Showing up certainly won't do the trick, but showing up the way he has in the other nine playoff games he has started probably would get it done.
In the postseason, Brady has completed 190 of 304 passes (62.5 percent) for 1,951 yards, with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. The opposing quarterbacks in those games completed 197 of 340 (57.9 percent) for 2,370 yards, with 11 scores and 17 picks. The Patriots racked up 22 sacks in their Super Bowl runs, while Brady was wrapped up trying to throw only 12 times.
Further inside the numbers of Brady versus his postseason competition:
Brady had the better completion percentage seven times.
Brady posted the better passer rating in six of the nine games.
Brady was sacked fewer times than the opponent in six games.
Brady did not throw an interception in six games, while foes managed the feat just twice.
Perfection has yet to be achieved, but it is what Brady seeks, particularly in the playoffs.
His most astounding postseason statistic is probably interceptions. During the regular season, Brady averages an interception every 39 passes. In the playoffs, he has thrown three interceptions in 304 attempts; that's one every 101 throws or so, against some of the best teams in the league.
''You try to play error-free football more so than any other games you play in," Brady said. ''You're playing the best teams in the league, and when you play the best teams in the league, any one mistake can get you beat. The games usually come down to one or two plays.
''If you ever take anything for granted, you could throw an interception, you could get strip-sacked and that could be the difference.
''You make a bad read on a red-zone pass and instead of getting a touchdown, you get 3 points and you lose by a field goal, and that's the difference. You just have to play your best. Every opportunity that you have in the scoring zone, you have to take advantage. Every open receiver, you need to able to hit them. You can't miss receivers like we've done this year."
Those ''misses" have added up to Brady having perhaps his best season. He led the NFL in passing yards with a career-high 4,110, and at 92.3, he was just off his career best passer rating of 92.6 set in 2004.
Brady has thrown 94 straight passes in the playoffs without an interception, which makes him pretty decent in Belichick's book.
''Tom is a good player," Belichick said. ''I'm confident when he's on the field. I'm confident that he'll make good decisions and good plays for us. So when he makes them, I'm not really surprised."
Jerome Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.