FOXBORO -- You know how it goes. Just a day after Sunday's win over the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have already moved on to their next opponent, the Denver Broncos.
And of course, the Broncos are now led by old friend Peyton Manning, who makes his return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, after missing the entire 2011 season.
Four weeks in, Manning has led the Broncos to a 2-2 record, while throwing for 1,162 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions.
It looks as if Manning hasn't missed a beat.
"Well, I mean, I'm not that surprised," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Monday. "He's a pretty smart guy. He's got a lot of experience. He's got good skills. There are a number of other players that have missed a year with an injury and have come back the next year and are able to play at a high level. It's about what I would have expected him to be at.
"I'm not saying that I'm really excited about having to face him again," Belichick later added. "But, you've got to play somebody. Everybody's good in this league. Everybody has good skills. There's good players, good coaches, good teams. So, it's out of our control. Whoever our opponent is, it is.
"I can't say that this is the quarterback you really want to face."
The Patriots have had many battles with Manning in the past while he was the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback. And while the preparation for Sunday's game against Denver is in its early stages, New England sees some similarities with Manning's Broncos offense and his old Colts offense.
"It looks pretty much like the Colts' offense," said Belichick. "Two tight ends, three receivers. They're very similar to what they did in Indianapolis.
"He looks good," said Belichick. "It's him, it's everybody else, it's the entire offensive team. And he does a good job of managing that offense, getting the ball to everybody. Running it, throwing it inside, throwing it outside. All the things that they have, they have a lot of weapons, and you've got to be careful about giving him opportunities, because he'll find them. So you have to do a good job of disguising, keeping him off-balance, and try to make him figure it out after the snap, or as late as possible. You certainly don't want to just show it to him too many times and let him take a run at it."
Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty agrees that there are similarities between this year's Broncos team and Manning's Colts team. And he's also not surprised to see Manning back on top after last year's neck surgery.
"He's one of those guys that you have to put a little extra time in, to be able to just hold your own, let alone play well," said McCourty on Monday. "You've really got to put your time in.
"I don't think many guys are surprised about what he does. You know he's a great player, and you know he's a competitor. So, my short time time in the league, everything I've looked at from him has been great performances and great leadership. And I think it's incredible what he's been able to do to overcome that injury. I'm really not surprised by him being one of those guys that can do it."