Getting to know the Patriots

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New England Patriots went on to Cincinnati and on to Buffalo, and now they're on to the New York Jets.

We're mocking Bill Belichick, of course, but his "on-to-Cincinnati" mantra proved to be a turning point. Two days after the embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on "Monday Night Football," Belichick was beseiged with questions about his team's struggles, specifically slumping quarterback Tom Brady. The coach refused to answer them, claiming he was focused on the next opponent.

"We're on to Cincinnati," he said repeatedly.

It was so Belichick-ian, which explains why it made national news. Even Rex Ryan tweaked his longtime nemesis, cracking at his own news conference, "We're on to San Diego."

Belichick rediscovered his winning touch, as the Patriots have won the last two games by a combined score of 80-39. Meanwhile, the Jets (1-5) are on their way to a losing season. The divisional rivals meet up Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

Let's take a closer look at the Patriots:

Record: 4-2

Coach: Bill Belichick (203-107, 167-63 with the Patriots)

Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels

Defensive coordinator: Matt Patricia


Tom Brady, quarterback -- Two weeks ago, they were ready to run him out of town. Funny, but he doesn't look too old or too weapon-deprived anymore. Against two good defensive teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, he completed 69 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Yep, the Jets are catching a hot Brady, and he almost always plays well against them under the lights. He's 6-1 against the Jets in prime time, the only loss occurring in 2002. Hold the obituary.

Rob Gronkowski, tight end -- Finally, Gronk appears to be over his many injuries. He has 26 catches for 341 yards and four touchdowns, doing a lot of his damage in the red zone. He poses a major threat to the Jets, considering their issues with tight-end coverage. You'll see a lot of Gronkowski and Tim Wright, because the Patriots are back to their two-tight end ways. Over the last two games, they've run a majority of their plays out of two-tight end sets. In fact, they're 4-0 when using two tight ends on more than one-third of their plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Shane Vereen, running back -- With Stevan Ridley (knee) out for the season, Vereen figures to have an expanded role. He's a change-of-pace back, not a power runner, but he's still averaging 5.1 yards on 42 carries. He can make plays in the field and could be a tough cover for the Jets. Vereen has 26 receptions for a team-high 128 yards-after-the-catch. The Patriots also could rotate rookie James White into the No. 1 role.


Darrelle Revis, cornerback -- His former teammates still have a hard time wrapping their brain around the fact that he now plays for the Jets' top rival. It was hard seeing him in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform, but the Patriots? "It's definitely weird," center Nick Mangold said. "Never throught I'd see it." Money changes everything. After getting cut by the Bucs, Revis signed a two-year deal with the Patriots -- which really is a one-year contract for $12 million. Revis, wearing his familiar No. 24, is off to a solid, if not Revis-like start. He has one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, but he also has allowed a touchdown and a 60-percent completion rate, according to Pro Football Focus. The Jets passed on a chance to re-sign Revis when he became a free agent. How's that decision working out for them?

Chandler Jones, defensive end -- The Jets' decision in the first round of the 2012 draft came down to Jones or Quinton Coples. They chose Coples with the 16th pick, and Jones went five spots later to the Patriots. Jones has 21 career sacks, Coples only 11. Jones plays right end in the Patriots' 4-3 scheme, which means he'll be matched against left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Jones (3.5 sacks) has a 7-foot-1 wing span, which makes him a threat to bat down passes. He already has two. He also is a factor in the kicking game, as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.

Devin McCourty, safety -- He grew up in Nyack, New York, and played his college ball at Rutgers. McCourty, who began his career as a ballhawking cornerback, has settled in nicely at safety. He has a knack for being a Jets killer, so Geno Smith should think twice before he throws over the middle. Jets fans will recall that McCourty had a 104-yard kickoff return against them two years ago.