Funny that the former Patriot on the Chiefs who has won a Super Bowl's return is all but unnoticed. For all the hype about Matt Cassel's homecoming dance, Scott Pioli, a man who really made a difference for the team, is flying under the radar. Maybe that's because GMs aren't calling the signals. They just herd in the talent.
Cassel is out for the game, so he won't be on the dance floor. Instead, we will see Tyler Palko, who was interestingly chosen to start at Pitt over none other than Joe Flacco. He ended up as one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history. Since then, Palko has played quite the journeyman, being on the Saints, the Cardinals, the Montreal Alouettes, the Steelers' and now the Chiefs rosters. This marks his first NFL start, and what a start it will be.
The Patriots secondary has shown some signs of life in the past few weeks, holding for three quarters versus the Giants and choking the Jets. Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes may not play, but Pat Chung and Wes Welker should be in. The last time they played the Chiefs, Brady ended up out for the season. Whether the Chiefs will try that again remains to be seen (ha ha ha).
So, here are the predictions:
Palko will make less than 20 pass attempts
The Chiefs have a weak passing game, averaging less than 190 yards a game. That is with their starting quarterback. I doubt the coaches will have enough faith in Palko to try to give the passing game some spark, even though he faces the worst pass defense in the league.
The Chiefs' running game is strong enough that they can rely on it; the reason the Patriots have the eighth-ranked rush defense is because every team just passes the ball on them. What is unnoticed by many is Kyle Arrington's five interceptions, tied for the most in the league. Expect him to come up with the ball in the second quarter, then for Palko to throw maybe five more times, not including Hail Maries.
Gronkowski will eat the defense alive
This one's a given; the guy's 6'7", and the best cornerback the Chiefs have is Brandon Flowers, who is 10 inches shorter. Besides, he will be used to cover Welker.
Tom Brady will pass to the Gronk for both long and short gains, accumulating at least 100 yards together and two touchdowns. Kendrick Lewis (safety) may cover Gronkowski, an obvious mismatch, in which case Brady will be free to chuck the ball deep to Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price or Deion Branch. Whether or not he gets the ball, Gronkowski will decide how the Chiefs play defense.
The Chiefs will run, and they will run well
This season, the Chiefs have been a rushing team. With a backup QB, they have extra incentive to continue with what they've been mediocre doing. Jackie Battle is a fine running back, but the offensive line does not give him enough push to perform to the best of his ability. There is no way that he will be able to slip between the tackles, seeing as he would have to get past Vince Wilfork, human bulldozer extraordinaire.
That means Battle will take pitches or outside hand-offs, which the Patriots have a limited answer for. Andre Carter, DE, is going to make some sacks, yet he is not a run-stopper. Unless Jerod Mayo breaks out of his slumber, Battle will rack up plenty of yards.
The Patriots are the clear favorite coming into this matchup, and rightly so. They will pass the ball effectively, and maybe even get some quality BenJarvus Green-Ellis time in. The Chiefs will only be able to run, so expect them to do just that. The Patriots defense is going to struggle against the rush at first, then settle in for a second-half shutout. Brady may have a hard time versus the Romeo Crennel defense, him being another ex-Patriot, but the defense is not strong enough to stop him.
Final Score: 34-14 Pats