It should come as no surprise anymore to find the New England Patriots boarding a plane this weekend and heading to yet another Super Bowl. This is what they do. And this is how they do it.

Once again, Bill Belichick and his underlings have proven they are smarter than just about everyone else in the NFL. And in a sport where there are caps on pretty much everything -- how much you can spend, where you can draft, who you must play -- having an overabundance of football intellect, in comparison to much of the rest of the league, cannot be overstated.

Sure, Tom Brady remains a constant, and he alone gives the Patriots a shot at being competitive year in and year out. But once again the cast around him is vastly changed from the last time New England played for a Lombardi Trophy, just two years ago, with the Patriots roster in perpetual motion.

What's proven to be equally important to New England's dominance is that the other elements of this dynasty besides Belichick and Brady -- owner Robert Kraft, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (a Patriot since 2001, save for three seasons), Belichick's trusted assistant Ernie Adams (with Belichick forever), personnel man Nick Caserio (a Patriot since 2001), defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (a Patriot since 2004) -- remain in place as well, with the collective New England brain trust as robust as ever and continuing to find treasure in other, lesser team's trash.

On paper, and considering Rob Gronkowski's long-term absence due to injury, it's hard to say that their active roster is the most naturally talented in the NFL as currently constructed, yet true to form it is brilliant in that Belichick has once again found players who may be limited in their overall skill set yet can excel in specific, sometimes narrow, roles for him. That, once again, makes this unit, collectively, the best in football.

Compared to even their last Super Bowl team, from the 2014 season, that star power is limited. That team had a healthy and in-form Gronk, Hall of Fame corner Darrelle Revis in the secondary, stalwart defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, talented edge rusher Chandler Jones and do-everything linebacker Jamie Collins. And in that season, either through trade or free agent signing, Belichick buttressed his core with productive role players like Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell, Jonathan Casillas, Tim Wright, Alan Branch, Akeem Ayers and LeGarrette Blount. Two years later, only Blount and Branch remain from that group, with Belichick retooling this year's group with a new set of bargain-basement players others had discarded.

Bill Belichick is back in the Super Bowl by again turning other's trash into treasure. USATSI

In 2014, Belichick shocked some in the league by trading Logan Mankins, his long-time best offensive lineman, to Tampa for Wright and a draft pick. In 2016, he shook up the team by dealing Jones, super talented but displaying occasionally bizarre behavior and someone who would be demanding more on the open market than New England would pay, before the season.

Then he doubled down midseason, shipping Collins, who the team believed was not playing up to his reputation, to the Browns for just a third-round compensatory pick; Collins got his $50 million deal in Cleveland, and the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again, for the seventh time since Belichick arrived in 2000.

It is that constant culling of the waiver wire and lesser commodities that continues to fortify this franchise. Comparing the flip chart from Super Bowl XLIX, when New England beat Seattle in the dying seconds, to the Patriots' current starters on their depth chart is almost like two different teams. The only players in the same starting spots on this depth chart as that one are Brady, receiver Julian Edelman, left tackle Nate Solder, linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Dont'a Hightower, and safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.

That's it. Three starters on offense (including an almost completely reshuffled offensive line). Four starters on defense. This doesn't happen by accident.

This time around, Belichick pounced again on former high picks on defense who other teams viewed as busts or failures to develop, and/or thought they were not worth what their contracts stipulated they were owed. When most of the league chased their own tails, throwing around hundreds of millions of dollars on largely pedestrian players when the free-agent floodgates opened at the start of the league year, New England did almost nothing early last March.

Chris Hogan was the one early free-agent addition for the Pats last offseason. USATSI

The Patriots signed receiver Chris Hogan as a restricted free agent (they utilize that under-appreciated free agent designation as well as any club), with the Bills spending oodles of money foolishly elsewhere and not tendering him at a second-round level; Hogan became a legit deep threat in New England and had a monster AFC Championship Game. That was literally it for their activity during the first phase of free agency.

Then the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett, losing just a fourth-round pick, and the former Bear returned them to their two-tight end prowess and then became even more vital as Gronk was lost for the season to another surgery. They also signed linebackers Shea McClellin (a former Bears first-rounder) and Chris Long (former Rams first-rounder) to team-friendly, no-risk deals later in March. In mid-April, with the market dormant, they re-signed Blount on the cheap, again, and he went on to set a touchdown record for them.

New England acquired recent Browns top pick Barkevious Mingo and recent Eagles second-rounder Eric Rowe for almost nothing in trades just before the season; both became contributing depth players. And then, with Belichick frustrated with Collins and lessening his playing time and with his ouster forthcoming, they dealt for recent Lions second-round pick Kyle Van Noy, who provided key depth at linebacker.

"Nobody is better at that than Bill," said one long-time NFL personnel executive. "He has the perfect mind for seeing these fits and finding value in a player who has fallen out of favor. Look at Rowe. He's not quite a corner, not quite a safety, but he's a helluva asset if you figure out how to use him. He's kind of like the perfect Patriot. Those are the guys that Bill finds."

If it seems reminiscent of the roster buttressing and massaging that went on the last time the Patriots made it this far, that's because it is. The fact that only one of the above mentioned teams reached the postseason, and most of them came nowhere close -- well, make of that what you will.

Besides these acquisitions, Belichick overhauled the offensive line by finding gems in the college ranks: David Andrews (un-drafted in 2015), who many teams had as a medical reject, and Shaq Mason (fourth round in 2015), who wasn't invited to the combine. The defensive front, which was a weak spot in that last Super Bowl team, has been strengthened by Branch taking on an even bigger role this season. Former first-round pick Malcolm Brown has come into his own, as has former undrafted free agent Malcolm Butler, who went from unknown hero of their last Super Bowl to one of the best corners in the NFL, replacing none other than Revis from their last Lombardi team.

Malcolm Butler has become a No. 1 corner after making his name in the Super Bowl. USATSI

Belichick has done it again, and he's still far from done.

Brady may be approaching 40, but he had another MVP season. If anything the pass protection is much improved from a year ago (credit the return of Dante Scarnecchia to coach the offensive line for some of that as well).

And overall, the Patriots are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Of their 11 starters on defense, only three have been in the league for nine years or more, and the group averages six years of experience -- right in their prime. On offense, only one player (Brady) has nine years of experience, and the starters on that side of the ball also average six years of experience. Of course, take away Brady's 17 seasons, and the other 10 starters average 4.7 years of experience (in essence, still on their rookie contracts on average).

With Collins and Jones no longer around with expiring contracts, that money they may have earned can be shuffled around to other key players (Brown and Hightower, in particular). The Patriots are short on top impending free agents, and long on cap space. They won't have to sacrifice another first-round pick, or a quarter of Brady's season, to Deflategate penalties this year, either (they are still out their 2017 fourth-round selection, however, due to NFL punishment).

There are reasons why they were the class of the AFC yet again, and why this dynasty is still a work-in-progress. There will be more unsuspecting front offices to plunder in 2017, more recent draft "busts" to rehabilitate and many more victories to come in Foxborough, whether Brady and Belichick collect their fifth world title next weekend or not.