Programming Note: Watch the game live, Sunday at 3 p.m. on NBCSports.com. Pregame simulcast will kick off at 11 a.m.
In a debate over the all-time greats at the quarterback position, Super Bowl and playoff statistics carry much more weight than the regular season.
That's why Joe Montana is widely considered the best quarterback in NFL history. It's also why many are saying Patriots star Tom Brady is poised to surpass the 49ers legend.
Here are the facts:
Joe Montana: 16-7
Tom Brady: 16-5
Super Bowl wins
Joe Montana: 4
Tom Brady: 3
Super Bowl appearances
Joe Montana: 4
Tom Brady: 5 (including Sunday vs. the Giants)
Super Bowl MVPs
Joe Montana: 3 (Jerry Rice won the other)
Tom Brady: 2 (Deion Branch won the other)
Joe Montana: 23 games, 63 percent, 5,772 yards, 45 TD (2 rush), 21 INT, 95.6 QB rating
Tom Brady: 21 games, 63, 5009 yards, 39 TD (3 rush), 19 INT, 87.6 QB Rating
Super Bowl statistics
Joe Montana: 68, 1142 yards, 13 TD (2 rush), 0 INT, 122.5 QB Rating
Tom Brady: 64, 1001 yards, 7 TD, INT, 94.9 QB Rating
If the Patriots win on Sunday and Brady is named the Super Bowl MVP, he will have the same number of both Super Bowl victories and Super Bowl MVPs as Montana, and will surpass him in career playoff victories.
I know this may be blasphemous in these parts, but it might be time to consider the fact that Tom Brady could wind up going down as the greatest QB in history.
Take a deep breath before you start calling me four-letter words.
I am not saying that Brady is better than Montana. I'm saying that he's four masterful quarters away from being in the center of the discussion.
The 34-year-old Brady (turns 35 on Aug. 3) just turned in a season where he completed almost 66 percent of his passes for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns.
With the way the modern rulebook protect quarterbacks, combined with the fact that Brady and Belichick possess the definition of a "killer's mentality," there's no reason to think Brady won't put up staggering numbers for as many as six more seasons.
And there's no reason to believe Brady won't get back to at least one, if not multiple Super Bowls.
Trust me, I wish that Justin Smith and Patrick Willis were wreaking havoc on Brady in Indianapolis this Sunday and that that the 49ers had the opportunity to keep Brady at bay from Montana. But we don't live in a perfect world.
If we did, the 49ers would have drafted Brady in 2000 instead of Giovanni Carmazzi, and San Francisco might have eight or nine Lombardi trophies on the mantle, instead of five.
Instead, we have to live with the fact that Brady, who grew up in San Mateo worshipping the 49ers and Joe Montana, would probably love nothing more than to rack up six or seven Super Bowls and five or six Super Bowl MVPs en route to being considered the greatest quarterback of all-time.
I'm not saying it's going to happen or want it to happen. But it could ...
Check back Monday morning.