Patriots-Chiefs: Game Day Snapshot

The New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs today at Gillette Stadium. Game Preview

Kansas City Chiefs (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/7/08
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

SERIES: 31st meeting. Chiefs lead 16-11-3 and they won the last game, 26-16, in 2005 at Arrowhead, but haven't won in Foxborough since 1990. Coach Herm Edwards, however, has won only twice in 10 games with the Jets against the Patriots. Included is a six-game losing streak.

PREDICTION: Patriots 28-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chiefs have RB Larry Johnson back healthy, and they'll give him all the work he can handle in an attempt to keep the game close into the second half. With rookie LT Branden Albert lining up against DE Richard Seymour and QB Brodie Croyle facing the various blitz packages the Patriots' 3-4 scheme will throw his way, the less the Chiefs have to count on the passing game, the better. ... Saturday should prove to offer a restless night's sleep for Brandon Flowers. The Chiefs' rookie cornerback will be in the starting lineup against the Patriots' record-setting offense, and Flowers figures to command -- or draw -- a lot of attention from Patriots QB Tom Brady. So, too, could fellow rookie Brandon Carr, the fifth-round nickel back out of D-II Grand Valley State. RB Kevin Faulk will serve a one-game suspension, but the Patriots will use the other four they kept on the roster to keep the safeties honest.

KEY INJURIES: Chiefs: Albert (foot) returned to practice after missing most of the preseason, and could be spelled at times by Herb Taylor. Rookie WR Will Franklin (knee), the third receiver, is uncertain. Patriots: Brady (foot) sat out the entire preseason but has started 127 consecutive games and will play. TE Ben Watson (knee) is uncertain.

NEED TO KNOW: Chiefs coach Herm Edwards was 2-8 against New England in his five years as the Jets' coach. ... Brady's .787 (100-27) winning percentage is the best in the Super Bowl era among quarterbacks with at least 40 starts.

PLAYER UPDATES

Chiefs:

  • --WR Will Franklin, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery just over two weeks ago, did individual drills only Thursday and appears unlikely to play in his first NFL game Sunday against New England. The Chiefs' fourth-round draft choice had worked his way up to the No. 3 receiver spot before injuring his knee.

  • --WR Jeff Webb likely will be the Chiefs' No. 3 receiver against the Patriots while rookie Will Franklin is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

  • --DT Tank Tyler, who will make his first opening-day start against New England, missed Thursday's workout with what the team described only as personal issues. He is expected to practice Friday, as he did on Wednesday, and play Sunday.

  • --T Branden Albert had a second day of full practice repetitions Thursday and seems physically ready to start at left tackle in his first NFL game against New England.

  • --WR Maurice Price, a rookie who was unlikely to suit up against New England anyway, missed a second day of practice Thursday and isn't expected to play in the opener against New England.

  • --QB Brodie Croyle, who will be hard pressed to get his first NFL victory in his seventh start for the Chiefs on Sunday in New England, says he's much more comfortable being the starting QB now that he's been the man throughout spring and camp workouts. "We've had a good spring and training camp, and now we have to translate that into the regular season," he said.

Patriots:

  • --The Patriots made a series of transactions Thursday, shuffling the deck at tight end by re-signing Stephen Spach and releasing Jason Pociask and Tyson DeVree. Taking advantage of the vacancy left on the practice squad by DeVree's departure, they also added punter Reggie Hodges, perhaps as an insurance policy in case veteran Chris Hanson gets injured. With Benjamin Watson missing his second day of practice Thursday, the reacquisition of Spach might be the Patriots' way of bringing in another tight end with familiarity in their system. Spach spent all of training camp in New England before the team cut him at the deadline, whereas Pociask arrived as part of a brief tryout on the active roster.

  • --Contrary to reports that he may have suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, QB Tom Brady was back on the practice field Thursday moving without any noticeable setbacks. Bill Belichick declared his quarterback ready for Sunday's game against the Chiefs and it appears Brady will be on the field in Week 1 now that he has been removed from the team's injury report.

  • --The only noteworthy absence from Thursday's practice was PK Stephen Gostkowski, who sat out for non-injury reasons, according to the team's participation report. The acquisition of P Reggie Hodges may also be an insurance policy in case Gostkowski can't play in Sunday's game, though a move would have to be made to add the newly acquired punter to the active roster. Plus, there's no indication Hodges has experience as a place kicker.

  • --OL Russ Hochstein made progress by participating in all of Thursday's practice after a limited session on Wednesday. The veteran backup is suffering from a groin injury, but now appears to be on track for Sunday's opener, which is a plus for the Patriots since C Dan Connolly is still not practicing much due to a knee injury.

  • --WR Sam Aiken (knee) and DL Le Kevin Smith (knee) were also limited in Thursday's practice, though neither player is expected to make much of an impact on the active roster. Aiken could become a special teams' ace, which the Patriots need in light of their horrific performance in coverage against the Eagles in the preseason. Aiken, however, hasn't practiced since camp and missed the entire preseason, so there's little chance he'll be ready anytime soon.

SCOUTING REPORTS

Chiefs:
He missed a month of training camp workouts, yet rookie left tackle Branden Albert will now be asked to take on one of the most difficult opening-day assignments possible.

The 15th player drafted last April, Albert will be asked to man the left tackle position, a spot the former Virginia guard played on only three occasions during his junior year in college, in the Chiefs season opener -- on the road against defending AFC champion New England, no less.

The prospect of dealing with either defensive end Richard Seymour or outside linebacker Adalius Thomas is daunting enough. Doing so with essentially three days of full-team workouts is even more imposing. Prior to Wednesday, Albert had participated only in a few individual drills after injuring his foot in a July 31 training camp workout with the Minnesota Vikings.

Can he possibly be ready to protect quarterback Brodie Croyle's blind side from one of the most fierce pass rushes in the league?

"I have to," Albert replied. "We'll see Sunday what I can do.

"It was very frustrating missing all that time, but I can't get that time back now. All I can do is look forward."

Albert's physical conditioning after a month-long layoff could necessitate splitting time with Herb Taylor, the little-used reserve who replaced him in four preseason games.

Patriots:
At this time of year, there's only so much preparation a team can do in advance of its season opener.

In the case of the New England Patriots, they're playing a Kansas City team they're relatively unfamiliar with -- one with a handful of newcomers and rookies and only four players who are at least 30 years old.

Suffice to say, there's not a lot of relevant film available on rookies such as Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers and Branden Albert, so it's in the Patriots' best interest to look internally for ways to get ready for Week 1.

They can start with newly acquired cornerback Deltha O'Neal, who arrived on Monday and could be thrown into the mix immediately as long as he can learn the playbook in time for Sunday.

"As far as learning the defense, I'm still asking questions like I'm a rookie," O'Neal said. "We have Lewis Sanders and Ellis Hobbs and they've been in the game for a while and they know what to do.

"As far as the younger guys, just be patient and get ready for your turn because anything can happen. You're one play away from being a starter. Just prepare yourself. That's the only thing I could tell them."

The Patriots signed O'Neal in lieu of cutting John Lynch on Sunday afternoon. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback could start opening day, though it's likely that role will fall into the hands of rookie Terrence Wheatley, who impressed the team enough during training camp and the preseason to prompt the Patriots to release veteran Fernando Bryant.

"With any new player, it's always a little hard to tell how quickly things will come to him and how similar what we are doing is to what they have done in the past," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "How quickly they can grasp the concept and the technique is always a better chance with more experienced players than with rookies, but you never really know until you get into it.

"We'll see if we can get him ready to go by this weekend."

Until then, O'Neal is seizing the opportunity to be part of a winning team and perhaps resurrect his career in New England's secondary.

"I'm still learning," he said. "It's more veteran guys around the defense than in Cincinnati. It's going to be fun. I'm happy to be here and be a part of something like this. I've been excited since Sunday. You see me at home walking around I've got a big cheesy grin on my face that I'm happy to be here. I just can't explain my words right now. I'm just getting ready like I will be playing this weekend and preparing myself."

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