Patriots 7-point underdogs for third time in the past 18 seasons

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The combination of a New England Patriots team in transition without quarterback Tom Brady and the early-season dominance of the Kansas City Chiefs has sparked a rare situation.

The Patriots are 7-point underdogs, according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, in Sunday's road game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

This marks the third time since the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3, 2002, that they have been at least a 7-point underdog.

The other games:

  • Week 1 of 2016, at Arizona, while Brady was serving an NFL suspension. Led by Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots recorded a 23-21 win despite being 8.5-point 'dogs.

  • Week 17 of 2009 at Houston when the Patriots were locked into playing on wild-card weekend, and thus didn't go all-out in terms of playing starters. The Patriots lost by seven points in a game remembered most for receiver Wes Welker tearing his ACL.

The Patriots have had 11 games in Bill Belichick's 21-year coaching tenure in which they have been underdogs by seven points or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of those 11 games, eight came in Belichick's first two seasons.

The game in which the Patriots were the biggest underdogs was Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams (14 points).

For the Patriots, 11-year veteran Devin McCourty summed up the Kansas City matchup this way: "It's a huge challenge, but it's also an opportunity to go out [and] compete against the best. Obviously they're coming off a Super Bowl win. So I think all of us as competitors take that on as an opportunity to go out there and see where you stand. We're looking forward to it."

As for the Chiefs, coach Andy Reid said of the team's defending-champ status, "We understand that you get people's best shot. When you play the Patriots, you're always going to get their best shot. That's how we're looking at it, and we have looked at it throughout the weeks here."