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It’s not going to get any easier, either.

The Chiefs’ game at New England on Monday night starts perhaps the most grueling stretch any team will face this season. They return home to play Pittsburgh, and then visit Chicago and the New York Jets, before playing host to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers on Dec. 18.

It’s unclear whether Cassel will be available for any of those games.

Cassel, who signed a six-year, $63 million deal before the 2009 season, has struggled mightily all year, hurting his ribs early on and never quite playing up to the level he did last season.

He’s completing just 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,713 yards, with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His quarterback rating of 76.6 is nearly 20 points below his rating last season, when he led the rebuilding Chiefs to a surprise AFC West championship.

Cassel was just 13 of 28 for 96 yards and a touchdown against Denver. He was sacked four times, one week after getting dropped five times, and spent most of the afternoon running away from the Broncos’ pass rush. Kansas City managed just 258 yards of total offense in the game.

A good chunk of that came when Palko came on for the Chiefs’ final series.

The journeyman quarterback signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt in 2007, and spent some time with the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers, along with playing in the CFL. He signed with the Chiefs last year and did enough to earn the backup job this season.

The son of a high school coach, Palko has only appeared in four regular-season NFL games.

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.”