KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
WEATHER: Foxboro, Mass
TV: Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Suzy Kolber
PREDICTION: Patriots 31-12
KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB Tyler Palko making his first career start, the Chiefs are ill equipped to attack the Patriots' makeshift secondary. Of more concern is Palko's ability to read the various pressure packages he'll see. Kansas City has to play ball control and set up single coverage on the outside through a strong ground game. The Chiefs' 26th-ranked run defense has been worn down by facing big deficits, but coverage is the first concern. QB Tom Brady can look for the kill shots early, pushing the safeties back and then letting his committee of backs do the brunt of the work. The Patriots' one red flag is making sure OLB Tamba Hali is accounted for.
FAST FACTS: Palko has 13 career pass attempts. ... Brady has 3,032 passing yards, and needs 295 to set an NFL record for the most through the first 10 games of a season.
Surgery on Matt Cassel's right hand and the bandage that now protects it did not happen by chance. In the team's last two games, the Chiefs' quarterback was battered about by the pass rush of the Dolphins and Broncos.
His body finally had enough and it's easy to understand why given the pass protection numbers are so ugly for those games:
--87 pass plays called.
--11 runs on scrambles by Cassel.
--67 passes attempted by Cassel.
--9 times Cassel was sacked.
--21 hits on Cassel as he threw the ball or just after release.
On 41 (runs, sacks, hits) of those 87 pass plays, Cassel ended up getting hit or tackled. That's 47 percent of the pass plays called. That is a recipe for offensive disaster.
"It involves all components of the offense," head coach Todd Haley said of the pass protection. "It's not just the offensive line. If receivers aren't doing things the way they are supposed to do it and it creates a spacing issue that's a problem. If the additional protectors aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing, or blocking their assigned protection, that's an issue.
"That makes for a very complicated situation that everybody has to deal with. It ultimately comes down to executing in all areas and positions. They all have to be executing efficiently to have plays go the way they need to go."
There is a cause and effect with poor pass protection - the more sacks allowed, offensive production decreases. It's elementary football and it's obvious in the play and production of the Chiefs' offense the past two weeks. They scored just one touchdown and 13 total points in those two games.
Now, Cassel is out and if Tyler Palko is going to have any chance to win his first start in the NFL, he must have pass protection that far exceeds what was seen against the Dolphins and Broncos. The Chiefs made adjustments in both of those games to provide more bodies to block, but even that extra protection did not always work.
"There are different ways to help protect," Haley said. "Some of those are movement, moving pockets, nakeds, bootlegs; there are multiple ways to do it. We generally try to play to the strength of our players and the quarterback is part of that. The line, receivers, everybody, it makes for a challenge this week, especially when you see some of the rushers that we see on a weekly basis."
Though the New England Patriots have seemed one-dimensional at times offensively, there is one facet of their game that turns out successful almost every time.
For years, quarterback Tom Brady has been one of the best in football at running the two-minute offense, mostly toward the end of a half, but lately as part of the team's no-huddle offense, too.
The Patriots have the weapons offensively to keep a defense on the field without allowing substitutions and, more important, without compromising their own offense.
Aside from a stellar quarterback and an elusive slot receiver in Wes Welker, the Patriots also have an athletic offensive line capable of getting down the field in a hurry and not getting winded in the process.
"It gets pretty tiring but they're getting tired, too, so that's the main thing," guard Logan Mankins said. "It's nice to do it occasionally when it's working good. We like it. The (defensive line), I think they get more tired than we actually do because they have to chase the ball, but it does get pretty tiring in there -- you don't have the rest between plays like in the huddle."
The no-huddle worked so well against the Jets that it wouldn't be a surprise if the Patriots broke it out at some point against the Chiefs on Monday night. They certainly don't need a reason to utilize it; they're comfortable running the no-huddle regardless of the situation or how much time is left on the clock.
The idea is to get Kansas City's defensive line to wear down, which will open up more opportunities for Brady or whoever happens to be carrying the ball.
"You like those guys to be tired. They can't go as fast," Mankins said. "I don't know about the skill guys outside, but inside they get tired. Anyone that is 300 pounds and has to run play after play and doesn't get a break is going to get tired."
--QB Tyler Palko stepped right into the role of starting quarterback and directing the Chiefs' offense without a problem in his new role. "We went out (for practice) and there wasn't a blip, everything was normal," head coach Todd Haley said. "He just stepped in and took over." Palko has not started an NFL game and is five years removed from his last start in college.
--QB Matt Cassel's status on the active roster is unlikely to be decided until next week. Coach Todd Haley said the team wants to approach the immediate future with some caution because there's a slight chance that Cassel could be healed before the end of the season. The team thinks a week of recovery will provided a clearer picture of his prospects.
--DE Glenn Dorsey did not practice on Thursday due to a left leg injury he suffered in last Sunday's game against Denver. Dorsey spent the workout riding a stationary bike. Coach Todd Haley said the problem was not "severe" and expected Dorsey back fairly soon.
--ILB Demorrio Williams appears to have recovered from the groin injury that kept him out of last Sunday's game against Denver. Williams was back on the practice field Thursday and appeared to be moving without hesitation or problem.
--CB Brandon Carr appeared to be a limited participant in the Chiefs' practice on Thursday. In last Sunday's game, he left the field in the first half with what appeared to be a right knee injury. Carr came back and played in the second half. The Kansas City defense needs all of its best players ready to go in facing the Patriots and Tom Brady.
--S Ross Ventrone was re-signed to the practice squad. Ventrone has been involved in 12 transactions this year since the beginning of September.
--CB Devin McCourty was not in practice Thursday after leaving last week's game with a shoulder injury; it appears unlikely he'll suit up Monday night.
--LB Brandon Spikes also missed practice due to a knee injury and will likely be unavailable Monday night unless he returns to practice before the end of the week.
--LB Dane Fletcher missed practice Thursday due to a thumb injury, though he'll likely be a game-time decision Monday night.
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Other Games This Weekend:
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (5-3)
Carolina Panthers (2-7) at Detroit Lions (6-3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6) at Cleveland Browns (3-6)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (9-0)
Dallas Cowboys (5-4) at Washington Redskins (3-6)
Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Miami Dolphins (2-7)
Oakland Raiders (5-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-7)
Seattle Seahawks (3-6) at St. Louis Rams (2-7)
Arizona Cardinals (3-6) at San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
Tennessee Titans (5-4) at Atlanta Falcons (5-4)
San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Chicago Bears (6-3)
Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) at New York Giants (6-3)
Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) at New England Patriots (6-3)
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