Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) vs. New England Patriots )6-3)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
Watch online: ESPN Live Stream Online
Line: Pats by 17 Over/Under: 46.5
2011 reg. season trends:
The Chiefs are 5-4 ATS.The Chiefs are 3-1 ATS away.The Chiefs are 5-1 ATS as the underdog.The Chiefs are 3-1 ATS as an away underdog.The Patriots are 5-4 ATS.The Patriots are 2-2 ATS at home.The Patriots are 4-4 ATS as the favorite.The Patriots are 2-2 ATS as a home favorite.
Kansas City Leaders
Passing: Cassel - 160-269, 1713 yds, 10 tds
Rushing: Battle - 87 car, 403 yds, 1 td
Receiving: Bowe - 41 rec, 663 yds, 4 tds
New England Leaders
Passing: Brady - 238-360, 3032 yds, 23 tds
Rushing: Green-Ellis - 116 car, 460 yds, 5 tds
Receiving: Welker - 72 rec, 1006 yds, 6 tds
From general manager Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to injured quarterback Matt Cassel, the Kansas City Chiefs have plenty of connections to the New England Patriots.
On-field success isn't currently one of them.
Coming off a critical road victory that left them alone atop the AFC East, the Patriots return to Foxborough on Monday night to face a reeling Chiefs team that will have unproven Tyler Palko under center.
As Bill Belichick's czar of player personnel, Pioli helped build the Patriots (6-3) into a powerhouse last decade before coming to Kansas City in 2009.
Pioli traded for Cassel -- who emerged in 2008 with New England after then-Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard ended Tom Brady's season with a hit to his knee in the season opener -- and prior to 2010, hired Crennel, New England's defensive coordinator during its run of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons.
Cassel had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 and Kansas City rode an improved defense under Crennel to a surprising AFC West title, but a repeat playoff berth is looking unlikely. After bouncing back from an 0-3 start with four straight wins, the Chiefs were outscored 48-13 in consecutive home losses to Miami and Denver.
To make matters worse, Cassel suffered what coach Todd Haley called a "significant" hand injury in last Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Broncos and could miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery Monday.
Palko, who's thrown 13 NFL passes -- 26 fewer than Cassel had when he took over for Brady in 2008 -- will be under center for the foreseeable future.
"Tyler is the next in line, and he's done a terrific job, like I said, of keeping himself ready," Haley said. "That's what the No. 2 quarterback has to do, because you don't know. At a moment's notice, you could be in there playing, just like any other position."
Despite having been outscored 157-40 in their losses, the Chiefs (4-5) are still just a game out in the West.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have first place in the East all to themselves -- a reality that was tough to imagine after back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and the New York Giants left them tied with Buffalo and the New York Jets.
Facing the possibility of the franchise's first three-game skid in a decade, New England responded last Sunday night as Brady threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-16 victory over the Jets.
"No matter what happened last week, whether we won, lost, at home or on the road or in London, it doesn't matter. Once that game is over we have to put it behind us," Belichick said. "Now it's about preparing for Kansas City, what they do, what their schemes are, what their players are, what their tendencies are in certain coaching decision situations that we'll have to make."
This will be the first time Brady has faced the Chiefs since the 2008 opener, and only his second meeting against Crennel. Brady threw for 265 yards and three TDs in a 34-17 win over Cleveland in 2007, when Crennel was the Browns head coach.
"It's a very good group and because they're very well coached they're rarely in a bad position," Brady said of a Chiefs team that ranks 22nd in total defense allowing 364.3 yards per game. "In order to make plays, you have to run good routes, you have to make good throws, you have to pass protect against one of the best pass rushers that we face in (Tamba) Hali."
Hali has six of Kansas City's league-low nine sacks, but even if the Chiefs can get outside pressure, Brady should be able to find his tight ends. Rob Gronkowski has 16 catches for 214 yards and three TDs the past two weeks, while Aaron Hernandez remains another of Brady's favorite targets.
While the ability of the Patriots' offense to score has rarely been in question, the NFL's lowest-ranked defense's chances of stopping anyone certainly were before facing the Jets.
But New England's front constantly pressured Mark Sanchez -- defensive end Andre Carter had four sacks -- and helped take some of the heat off a makeshift secondary.
That unit, however, will likely be without its top player for a few games. Cornerback Devin McCourty suffered a right shoulder injury against the Jets and could miss a few weeks, while safety Patrick Chung is questionable after sitting out last Sunday with a foot injury.
Those injuries could leave the Patriots with few answers against Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe, whose 19 receiving TDs since the start of 2010 trail only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (23).
Bowe, however, has gone four games without finding the end zone, a drought that could continue with the inexperienced Palko taking the snaps.
That's not something Belichick is counting on.
"I think that Palko can do everything that he needs to do from what Matt has done," he said. "I wouldn't expect them to deviate too far from what they like to do."
The Patriots, who have won four straight against the Chiefs in Foxborough, are trying to avoid their first consecutive home losses with Brady under center since November 2006.