AFC East: Tyler Palko

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets lead the Kansas City Chiefs, 28-3, at intermission.

Here are some notes at halftime:
  • With the game already in hand, the biggest news is the injury to Jets starting safety Jim Leonhard. He injured his right knee following a second-quarter interception when his leg was twisted on the tackle. He was unable to put any weight on his knee and was carted to the sideline. Leonhard won't return in this game. The Jets may have to play without him for an extended period.
  • Jets running back Shonn Greene is having a good game. Green’s first carry went for 31 yards. He has 67 yards rushing, 58 yards receiving and a touchdown. Greene now has four touchdowns in his last two games.
  • The Jets are confusing Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko. New York has kept players in his face all first half and has three sacks. The Jets also rushed Palko into a key interception to Leonhard that led to a second-quarter touchdown. Palko is 3 of 8 for 11 yards and the turnover.
  • New York (7-5) isn't getting much help in the wild-card chase. The Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) hold the final wild-card spot and lead the Houston Texans, 16-3, at halftime.

Patriots putting AFC East on ice

November, 22, 2011
The AFC East is virtually in the bag for the New England Patriots. New England improved to 7-3 with an easy, 34-3, victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on "Monday Night Football."

New England now owns a two-game lead over the Buffalo Bills (5-5) and essentially a three-game lead over the New York Jets (5-5) after sweeping "Gang Green" this season. There's nothing to suggest the Bills or Jets, who are both struggling, can make up that deficit this late in the season.

The only question remaining for the Patriots is can they secure home-field advantage? New England is tied with the Baltimore Ravens (7-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) and Houston Texans (7-3) for the best record in the AFC. New England also has the easiest remaining schedule. The Patriots' final six opponents do not have winning records.

Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub (foot) is lost for the season. Houston will likely be out of the running for the No. 1 seed.

New England's biggest competition is Pittsburgh and Baltimore. But the Ravens play the 9-1 San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving, in addition to a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4). The Steelers also play the Bengals and 49ers.

Pittsburgh holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England and would get the top seed if the Steelers win the AFC North and have a similar record. But, barring injury, the Patriots appears to be a lock for at least the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC.
The New England Patriots (6-3) will conclude Week 11 in the AFC East with a game against the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

Here are three things to watch for New England:

1. Will the defense continue to improve?

New England's defense made strides in last week's 37-16 victory against the New York Jets. But this often-criticized unit still has a lot to prove. The Patriots remained last in total defense entering Week 11. But New England has the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. Also, playing against Kansas City backup quarterback Tyler Palko should help. Expect New England, which had five sacks last week, to be fearless in pressuring Palko. The Patriots have to feel confident Palko cannot beat them with his arm.

2. What does Romeo Crennel have in store?

Very few coaches know New England's personnel better than Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. He was the Patriots' defensive coordinator during their three Super Bowl titles last decade. Crennel's defenses had to practice every day against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and many are curious to see what Crennel draws up against his former team. Kansas City playing stellar defense is one of the few ways the Chiefs can pull off the upset.

3. Can the Patriots stay injury-free?

The last time the Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury. This is exactly the type of thing New England needs to avoid Monday night. The Patriots are expected to win this game pretty convincingly. But that doesn't mean it won't be a physical game. The best thing New England can do is jump on Kansas City early, then allow some of the Patriots' key players to rest in the fourth quarter.

Bill Belichick on Tyler Palko

November, 16, 2011
The New England Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on "Monday Night Football." But the Chiefs will be without starting quarterback Matt Cassel, who has a hand injury.

Enter little-known Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko, who attempted just 13 passes in four career games.

Here are Patriots coach Bill Belichick's thoughts this week on scouting Palko:

What do you know about Palko?

Belichick: He’s a player we have to do some work on and spend more time watching him. We of course haven’t seen a lot of him in regular season game film. We can go back to preseason. I’d say an athletic player, quick release, can move around back there in the pocket, left-handed, and sees the field pretty well. I think they have a lot of confidence in him. He played ahead of [Ricky] Stanzi this year in preseason and I know Stanzi is a guy they drafted. There’s a lot to like about him too, so we’ll have to be ready for both those guys. Obviously he played well enough to move into that second spot. Again, we all know from the 2008 season here and many other examples of teams we played against. Everybody wrote us off in 2008 when we lost Tom [Brady] and Matt [Cassel] led us to 11 wins. We’re playing against a football team, not just one player. We know that whoever they have in there, whether it’s Palko, Stanzi or whoever it is, that we’re going to have to play a good football team. Again, this is a team that won their division last year. They have good coaches, they’re well coached, they’re disciplined [and] they have good depth.

What other avenues can you utilize to get a gauge on his tendencies?

Belichick: That’s really all we can do and that’s what we have to do -- we have to look at the film that we have available. Fortunately we have plenty of film available with him in their offense. It’s hard sometimes when you see a player and the only film you have on him is when he’s with another team, running another offense and now you’re trying to project that skill set into an offense that doesn’t match up with the player, but in this case it does. I think any coach that loses a starting quarterback, when you bring in whoever the other quarterback is, you certainly want to play to that player’s strengths to a degree but at the same time you can’t have two different offenses -- one for this guy and one for that guy. It’s impossible, you can’t do that. Obviously to keep the consistency there for the other ten players who are all good players and are playing well, there has to be some carryover for them. Then the quarterback does what the offense requires him to do and you make some modifications for him because of his skill set, but you just can’t change everything that you do because one guy steps onto the field or it kills the other 10 guys.