With the Patriots off this weekend and the postseason ready to begin, we’ve got the Patriots Positional Playoff Preview, a week-long, position-by-position look at the Patriots and how they look heading into the postseason. We kick it off with the quarterbacks.
Depth chart: Tom Brady , 401-for-637, 4,827 yards, 63 percent completion rate, 34 touchdowns, eight interceptions; Ryan Mallett , 1-for-4, 17 yards, 25 percent completion rate, one interception.
Overview: While you might not put this in the Brady pantheon — that’s reserved for the 2007, 2010 and 2011 seasons at this point in his career (go ahead and compare them here ) — it’s not too far removed. The passing numbers are down slightly from last year’s career-high of 5,235 yards because New England ran the ball more and the team was without Rob Gronkowski  and Aaron Hernandez  for sizable chunks of the season. But all in all, this may not be in his Top 3, it’s still good enough to garner him MVP consideration.
Going into the playoffs, Brady is the centerpiece of everything on this team. As we’ve said on several occasions, despite the fact that the Patriots have a more balanced offense than any other time since 2004, it remains a quarterbacks league, and the team will only get as far as Brady can take it. And as we wrote at this time last year , no quarterback in the NFL has a better grasp of his system and what his coach ultimately wants him to accomplish on a weekly basis than Brady. (He and Bill Belichick  have the longest active quarterback-coach relationship in the league.)
In the end, this postseason will once again give the 35-year-old signal caller a chance to craft his legacy even further. Already in the conversation as one of the best of all time, he will be attempting something this postseason that no other quarterback in the history of the league has managed to accomplish — he’s the only guy left on the team from Super Bowl  XXXVI, and if he and the Patriots win it all next month, he’ll be the first quarterback in the history of the league who could boast of winning two different Super Bowls with two totally different groups of teammates.
Best Moment: As usual, there were lots of choices here — including the fact that he threw just one pick between Oct. 21 and Dec. 10 — but we’ll go with the back-to-back performances against the Colts on Nov. 18 (24-for-35, 331 yards, three TDs) and four days later, the Jets (18-for-27 for 323 yards, three TDs) as the best of the year for No. 12. His two-week output of 42-for-62 for 654 yards and six TDs — games New England won by a combined score of 108-43 — would be a good month for most quarterbacks.
Worst Moment: Two of his best games statistically came in New England losses. He was 36-for-58 for 395 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in an October loss to the Seahawks  in Seattle, and went 36-for-65 for 443 yards, one touchdown and two picks in the loss to the Niners in December. The Seahawks game was worse, however, as those two picks were clearly on him. In that same game, he took a pair of intentional grounding calls (one was declined — not to mention Richard Sherman felt the need to clown him after the game) and so we’ll go with that one.
By the numbers: Brady completed exactly as many passes in the 2011 regular season as he did in the 2012 regular season — 401.
Money quote: ‘I think Coach [Belichick] said it best this morning. He said, ‘You make one mistake in this type of game and that’s your season.’ It’s no more, ‘I’ll get it figured out next week and it’s something we have to learn from and move on from.’ No, it’s your season. That’s the kind of urgency you have in practice and certainly when we play here a week from Sunday. We’ve been working hard to figure out a bunch of things. There’s a packet full of things we need to do better, and things that we’re really trying to work hard to improve on. Guys have really taken to those things; hopefully that leads into a great week of practice next week.’ — Brady on the sense of urgency that goes with playing in the postseason.