Foxborough, Mass. It's hardly a surprise that Tom Brady will start in the New England Patriots' season opener today.
The shock could come when the Kansas City Chiefs' young secondary sees how hard it will be to stop last season's NFL MVP.
"It's going to be a tough task, but I think my young fellas back there are ready. They're ready for a challenge," said cornerback Patrick Surtain, an 11-year veteran.
Rookie Brandon Flowers is the other starting cornerback and Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page are in just their second season as starting safeties. Add to that the Chiefs nine-game losing streak at the end of last season and quarterback Brodie Croyle's 0-6 record as a starter, and the Patriots' 0-4 exhibition record means absolutely nothing.
"You're still focused on it," New England safety Rodney Harrison said. "We're not."
The Patriots have their own concerns in the secondary.
Cornerback Asante Samuel left for Philadelphia as a free agent, Fernando Bryant was released after starting throughout the exhibition season and two-time Pro Bowler Deltha O'Neal was signed Monday.
But the team that lost its chance for a perfect season in the Super Bowl still has a deep defensive line and a linebacking group bolstered by first-round pick Jerod Mayo, who will start at inside linebacker.
"It is a relief" that Samuel left, said Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who had 70 catches as a rookie last season.
Brady had a right foot injury and missed all four exhibition games. But after being on the injury or practice participation report for every game the past three seasons, he was finally off it Thursday.
Surtain doesn't think Brady will be rusty after not playing the exhibition games. After all, the quarterback did throw an NFL-record 50 touchdown passes last season when the Patriots were 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14.
"He's phenomenal," Surtain said. "I'm pretty sure he knows the offense like the back of his hand. I hope he has rust. But you can't expect anything but greatness from him."
Surtain and his secondary mates also must contend with Randy Moss, who played sparingly in the preseason. But he missed all four exhibition games last season, had an outstanding opener and set a single-season league record with 23 touchdown receptions.
The Chiefs also must contend with Wes Welker, whose 112 catches tied for the NFL lead, and a deep group of running backs with Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan. The Patriots will be without right guard Stephen Neal, sidelined for at least six weeks.
His replacement, Billy Yates, doesn't think that will hurt.
"Everybody that's in this locker room on the offensive line, we know the techniques and we know what each other are doing," said Yates, who spent most of the past three seasons on the Patriots' practice squad.
The Patriots set an NFL record last season for most points and had the league's most productive offense.
"What they did last year was something that you don't see in pro football and there's going to be some games where all of a sudden they're not going to score 40 points all the time," Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said.
With Brady, even without the exhibition experience, the Patriots could score 40 again today.
"The fortunate thing for me is that I have played in about 130 games," he said. "So I know that speed (of the game) and my body knows that speed. Hopefully, I can rely on the past history that I have had playing."