If Tom Brady is suiting up on a Thursday, the odds are good the Patriots are going to win.
Brady, undefeated on Thursdays since becoming the Patriots starter in 2001, is the NFL's most successful midweek quarterback in that span.
This week will mark Brady's seventh start in a Thursday night game, and in all six previous games he came out a winner.
What's his secret?
"I don't know," Brady said. "I think we just – it always comes down to how well you play. I don't think there's any real magic plays that we hold for Thursday night games or anything like that."
There may be no magic plays, but the NFL has traditionally handed Brady and the Patriots a magic elixir to ease the transition to these short weeks – weak opponents.
Of the six teams Brady has beaten on Thursday, only one – the 2004 Colts – went on to finish the season with a winning record. That's a tradition that continues with the 1-5 Jets in town this week.
(Notably, Brady has been part of a Thursday loss in his career. His NFL debut came on Thanksgiving in 2000, when he relieved Drew Bledsoe in a 34-9 blowout loss to the Lions. Brady completed one pass - to Rod Rutledge - out of three attempts for 6 yards.)
|Tom Brady's history on Thursday night|
Entering game | End of season
|2013||Vs. Jets||1-0 | 8-8||13-10||Brady connects with Julian Edelman 13 times as Patriots cling to win.|
|2012||At Jets||4-6 | 6-10||49-19||Brady's 3 TD passes a footnote as Patriots score 35 in second quarter of 'butt fumble' game.|
|2010||At Lions||2-9 | 6-10||45-24||After falling behind 14-3, Brady throws 4 TDs in holiday rout.|
|2005||Vs. Raiders||0-0 | 4-12||30-20||Brady's two TD passes, 306 yards passing pace Patriots.|
|2004||Vs. Colts||0-0 | 12-4||27-24||Brady threw 3 TDs as defense locked down Peyton Manning's Colts in clutch.|
|2002||At Lions||3-8 | 3-13||20-12||Defense led way as Brady ended game with game-icing drive that lasted 9:46.|
Given the Patriots' overall success in the Brady era, the quarterback's record on Thursdays shouldn't be surprising. No team has won more than their 164 games since 2001, so it makes sense that dominance would roll into the midweek games.
But the superior execution and coaching that's typical of Patriots teams is magnified for Thursday contests, when teams have three fewer days to game-plan and practice.
"It's a short week," Brady said. "You have to max out on football, put everything else to bed and try to put everything you can into these three days."
Thursday night matchups have become a staple of the Patriots-Jets rivalry. This is the third year in a row the AFC East foes have met midweek.
It's also the fourth time in seven years, with the Brett Favre-led 2008 Jets handing the Patriots their lone Thursday loss in the recent era. That game was started by Matt Cassel, however, as Brady recovered from a knee injury.
The Jets are 3-5 on Thursday since 2001, but have lost a Thursday game in each of the past three seasons. That streak matches up with their current three-year playoff drought.
With more experience against the Patriots on Thursdays than anyone else, Jets coach Rex Ryan doesn't think he can find any loopholes to use the short week against New England coach Bill Belichick.
"I think his record on a short week is probably ... I know it's a lot better than mine," Ryan said.
"It's not an advantage on a short week, a long week or anything else. We're just going to show up, and the best team will win."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter @leahysean