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Tom Brady enjoying greatest 40-something season ever

How do you spell GOAT?

Tom Brady keeps coming up with more ways to do it.

His claim to the Greatest of All-Time label begins with the fact he's the only quarterback with five Super Bowl rings. He's the only NFL player who has been to seven Super Bowls. He has the most wins ever as a starting QB (217) and the best winning percentage in the Super Bowl era (.780).

This season he is performing a fountain-of-youth "miracle:" Brady is having the greatest age-40 season in NFL history. Not only that, it's looking like it will be the greatest season ever by a 40-something in any of the four major sports.

All of which seemingly comes as no surprise to Brady, who exuded confidence entering the season.

"I think it's a lot easier now for me than it's ever been," Brady told reporters in training camp when asked about preparing for the 2017 season. "I feel like my routine is better than it's ever been. When you're younger, you don't know what to do. After 17 years, going into my 18th year, I know what to do. I know how to prepare. I'm never sore. I could practice every day. I could practice twice a day if they'd let us do that, but that's not the way it goes anymore. It's just fun being out here competing."

Tom Brady says he's a 'little sore' but expects to be fine to play against Bills

Brady enters Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills at No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards, passer rating, completions, interception avoidance and yards per attempt. He's neck and neck with Philadelphia's Carson Wentz for first-team All-Pro and NFL most valuable player.

"Some guys at 21, 22 can’t play that good," Bills running back LeSean McCoy said. "It’s actually something that’s amazing to see. You’re witnessing greatness."

Bills coach Sean McDermott is 43. He marvels at Brady playing the way he is at 40.

"It’s incredible," McDermott said. "I know not only what he does on the field, [but] what he does off the field, I’m sure, in terms of what I’ve heard, with his preparation, [and] their entire team.  There’s a difference between winning and doing the things that lead you to winning."

How rare is Brady?

Just 13 others have started a game at QB at age 40 or more in NFL history. But only four have started for more than half a season at age 40.

The others: Warren Moon for Seattle in 1997, Vinny Testaverde for Dallas in 2004 and Brett Favre for Minnesota in 2009.

Moon was very good for a 7-7 Seahawks team. He led the league in passing yards per game (245) and had 25 TDs with 16 interceptions.

Favre, who turned 40 in October of the 2009 season, was great. He led the Vikings to a 12-4 record. He was second in passer rating, second in TDs and ninth in passing yards. But he wasn't first. And he didn't make first- or second-team All-Pro that year.

The oldest player to lead the NFL in passing was Fran Tarkenton with 3,468 yards at age 38 in 1978.

The best non-quarterback performance by an NFL player in his 40s arguably was by Jerry Rice in 2002. He caught 92 passes (ninth best) for 1,211 yards that year.

The 40-somethings who have dominated in major sports are scarce.

Many baseball players have had success in their 40s, with Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose, Carlton Fisk, Dave Winfield and Phil Niekro included on a long list. But in terms of ranking among the top handful of players in the game, Ty Cobb and Buffalo native Warren Sphan arguably stand out.

Cobb hit .357 at age 40 in 1927, which ranked seventh in the major leagues. He was sixth in on-base percentage.

Spahn won 21 games at age 40 in 1961. He ranked third in the major leagues in wins, fourth in earned-run average and second in the Cy Young voting. He was 10th in the National League MVP voting.

Numerous hockey players also have played at a high level in their 40s. The best arguably was Gordie Howe, who ranked third in scoring at age 40 in 1969. He was fifth in the most valuable player (Hart Trophy) voting that year.

Basketball players have been less dominant in their 40s. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone were quality starters at age 40 but there have been no 40-something all-leaguers in the NBA.

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