It's a common phrase, often uttered several times from September to December. This time, though, it's true: Sunday's matchup against the Ravens will be the most important game of the season for the Patriots.
But you don't have to take our word for it. Tom Brady, who isn't prone to football-related hyperbole, said as much.
"We need it," he said. "There’s no bigger game than this one for us. We have to put everything we can into it. It’s a very important game. As the season goes on, each of these games gets more and more important. We know how important this one is to try to win the division."
A Patriots win would clinch the AFC East and a playoff spot. A loss muddies things a bit, particularly after they dropped a game to division foe Miami last week, although there's still a scenario where they earn a postseason berth.
"It would be nice to go out there and play this team and play them well for once," Brady said of the Ravens. "We haven’t done a great job playing against them offensively. They present a lot of challenges. They’ve always had great players there; they still have some great players that are carryovers from last year’s team and different guys that they’ve added this year. It’s a really good group and they put a lot of pressure on you. They’re good in the red area, they’re good on third down. They do some really good things. It’s going to be a big test."
Brady has always spoke highly of the Ravens' defense, but back in 2010, before Baltimore presented much of a challenge, Brady offered this assessment after Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs spoke of his great dislike for the Patriots quarterback: "We play those guys a lot and they've only beat us one time in all the times that I've played them. So they talk a lot for beating us once in nine years."
The Ravens outlasted the Pats in last year's AFC Championship Game, and should have beaten them the year before, if not for a dropped pass and a missed field goal.
As far as Brady is concerned, none of that matters now. If the Patriots win, they'll remain the AFC's No. 2 seed and will get a first-round bye. If they lose, things get complicated.