Regularly scheduled programming isn't common with the New England Patriots these days. For the second time in as many weeks, Bill Belichick's club had its game rescheduled due to COVID-19 concerns. In Week 4 it revolved around a positive test by starting quarterback Cam Newton and last week it was reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who tested positive, along with defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray.
That latest string of positive tests forced the NFL to reschedule what was originally a Week 5 contest between the Broncos and Pats to the following week. That gave both New England and Denver an impromptu bye last weekend. Denver's original Week 6 matchup with the Dolphins was also rescheduled for later in the year.
While seeing positive tests is generally less than ideal, the delay in action has seemingly opened the door for both the Patriots and Broncos to have their starting quarterbacks ready for Sunday's matchup. Cam Newton has returned to the club after battling COVID-19 and being cleared by medical professionals, while Drew Lock practiced in a limited fashion all last week and seems primed for a return from the right shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the year.
Naturally, that brings the intensity for this matchup up to another and should make it a more competitive contest in Foxborough. Before we dive even deeper into this matchup, here's how you can catch all the action.
How to watch
As we mentioned above, if both starting quarterbacks are able to return for this game, it makes all the difference in the world for their respective clubs. Prior to coming down with COVID-19, Cam Newton was showing flashes of his 2015 MVP form, leading the league in rushing touchdowns at the time while completing 68.1% of his throws for 714 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions through three games. He'll look to get back to that level in his return. As for Drew Lock, he's played through one full game for Denver this year, which was the opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. He finished that contest with a 66.67 completion percentage, 216 yards through the air, and one passing touchdown. Of course, Denver is still bringing along the promising second-eyar, quarterback, who went 4-1 in his five starts to end 2019.
Elsewhere on the Broncos offense, Melvin Gordon found his stride in Week 4, rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the win. However, the back was cited for a DUI in Denver this week, which does put his status in question for this game. With the Patriots, it'll be fascinating to see what second-year running back Damien Harris can do in his second game of the year. He made his 2020 debut in Week 4 against the Chiefs and rushed for 100 yards on 5.9 yards per carry. With Newton back at the helm, that could make for a dangerous rushing attack.
That may be a difficult task, however, as the Broncos at a top-10 unit against the run through the first quarter of the season. On that note, Denver has been able to maintain a top-10 defense overall this year in terms of DVOA, despite the loss of Von Miller to begin the year. Through the first quarter of the year, they are allowing 24.5 points per game, while the Patriots defensive unit is giving up 23 points a contest. That unit looks like they will have defending Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore for this matchup after being cleared by medical professionals to play Sunday following his positive COVID-19 test.
Ultimately, I'll lean towards the Patriots here largely based on their defense. That unit held Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs offense to just six points in the first half and 13 points through the first three quarters before they blew the game open in the fourth. If they give that same effort against Denver and Cam Newton is back under center, the Broncos will be in some trouble. For more predictions on this game, take a look at what our CBS Sports experts think.
Score: New England 23, Denver 10