Tom Brady: Patriots just getting warmed up

Opponents that hoped to jump on the New England Patriots -- with their inexperienced defenders and dubious pass rush and holdout Pro Bowl guard and injured slot receiver and controversial wideout -- obviously have missed their opportunity.

The Patriots entered 2010 with all sorts of question marks and then created more in the early weeks, trading Randy Moss and failing to get Logan Mankins back until three games ago.

But the Patriots endured and take a sparkling 8-2 record into their Thanksgiving game against the destitute Detroit Lions.

The Patriots already are considered among the elite, and their leader is confident they're going to get significantly better.

"Football season hasn't even started yet," Brady told reporters Tuesday. "I keep telling you guys. We aren't even half the team that hopefully we're going to be at some point here in the next five, six weeks."

That's a scary thought.

Aside from that hiccup in Cleveland, the Patriots do appear to get stronger by the game.

Mankins is back. The offense has learned it can rely upon rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The backfield tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead has congealed. Wes Welker's rebuilt knee feels better every week.

On defense, rookies have evolved at key positions, including left cornerback Devin McCourty.

With the New York Jets refusing to lose, the AFC East homestretch should be electrifying.