SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Tom Brady was a little stunned. Not by the prediction. But the score.
Informed that Giants wideout Plaxico Burress had predicted the score of Sunday's Giant upset of the Patriots, Brady had one question.
"What was the score?" asked Brady.
"23-17," he was told.
"We're only going to score 17 points?" said Brady, laughing. "OK. Is Plax playing defense?"
The 2007-08 Patriots are the highest-scoring team in NFL history (589 points). They scored 75 touchdowns in their 16-0 regular-season run.
"23-17," mused Brady later. "I wish he had said like, 45-42, something like that. I wish he'd give us a little more credit for scoring a few points."
Burress went Joe Namath on us Tuesday and got a lot of headlines. He was late to yesterday's mandatory media session and appeared to have been tazed by Tom Coughlin when he finally arrived. There was far less bravado. But Burress didn't back off his remark. And he had some company. Giants chairman and executive vice president Steve Tisch also predicted a New York victory on Bloomberg Radio's "On The Ball." Tisch's score is 21-17.
Ouch. Another diss of the Patriots' offense. A Tisch diss.
In addition, the Giants got the Patriots' attention with their choice of black suits for Monday's flight to Arizona. The sartorial selection was recommended by linebacker Antonio Pierce and it's been suggested the Giants were preparing for the Patriots' funeral.
"We'll see who has black on after the game," said Randy Moss.
"We've been dealing with that all season," said Brady. "We've had a lot of players that we played against - there was a guy from the Chargers that did it. And obviously, the well-documented Steeler game."
When will they ever learn? There's plenty of evidence that it does not pay to agitate the Patriots on game week. Eagles wideout Freddie Mitchell tried it three years ago at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla. Mitchell wound up catching one fewer pass than Rodney Harrison. This year we had Pittsburgh defensive back Anthony Smith guaranteeing victory. Then there was Chargers lineman Igor Olshansky telling the world the Patriots needed to be worried.
New England's supreme confidence hasn't come from the mouths of Patriot players. Mayor Tom Menino revealed Super Tuesday parade plans and 19-0 commemorative "perfect season" books are in the works - just in case. But the Patriots want no part of premature victory plans.
"We don't make predictions," said Brady. "We just let our play do the talking. I learned that lesson early in my career. No matter what you say during the week, and God knows we say a lot in this entire week, we focus on going out there and trying to do our best."
"Most guys on this team understand that any time you say something you open yourself up for criticism," said offensive lineman Matt Light. "If you stay humble and go about doing things in that manner and not really trash talking and getting involved with all that 'he-said, she-said' kind of stuff, it just makes our lives a lot easier, it makes this week a lot easier. You don't have to worry about having the criticism of something that you said coming out."
Burress's comment is mildly reminiscent of Kansas City Chief Fred "The Hammer" Williamson taunting the Green Bay Packers before the first Super Bowl. Williamson was knocked unconscious in the Packers' 35-10 victory. Things worked out a lot better for Namath two years later when he guaranteed victory against the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl III. But there's never been another one like Joe Willie. Burress's brag is merely the latest in a lame line of hollow guarantees.
"He's entitled to say anything," said Moss. "The only thing about a prediction is you've got to make it happen. Making a prediction that you're going to go out there and make it happen, that's very tough words to back up . . . I think the pressure's on them now that they predicted this victory. We'll see when the clock's on zero on Sunday."
"A lot of times you can get caught up in the hype," said Harrison. "You can get caught up in the emotion. But I've said before, always show the other team respect. Obviously, they're a very good team. They're here. You don't disrespect your opponent by talking about them. You give them all the respect in the world. You handle yourself with class and you play football on Sunday. At the end of the game we're going to look up at the score and whoever played the best, the confetti will go right on their heads."
The confetti will rain down on Tom Brady's helmet. It always does.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.