If 2020’s taught all of us anything, it’s to be flexible with our plans.
That includes the highly-regimented NFL, who has had to move multiple games around already and we’re only one month into their season.
According to multiple Denver-based writers, the NFL has informed the Denver Broncos their Sunday afternoon game at the New England Patriots will be moved to Monday night with a 3:05 p.m. MT kickoff.
For the Patriots — who had star quarterback Cam Newton test positive for COVID-19 last weekend — this is the second straight week their Sunday game has been moved to the early Monday night kickoff. While Cam was the only Patriots player to test positive last week, this week brought Stephon Gilmore’s positive test as well as practice squad defensive lineman Bill Murray. (No, not that Bill Murray.)
Gilmore will certainly not be playing this week, which is a boost to Denver’s passing game because he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league. However, if Newton can pass two tests and have them come back as a negative result, he will be able to return to the field. Considering he tested positive late Friday night, giving him another day only boosts his chances of being cleared to play in Week 5.
Newton returning for Josh McDaniels’ offense in New England would be a game-changer, no doubt. He’s the definition of a dual-threat quarterback, and even at age 31, he’s excelling with the Pats this year. In three games, he’s completing 68.1 percent of passes for 714 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He also has rushed for 149 yards, with a 4.3 yard per carry average, and four scores.
For 1-3 Denver, going into New England has never been easy. And Bill Belichick has his defense playing well, limiting Kansas City until late in that game on Monday night. It will be a tall task to walk out of Foxborough with a win, and it becomes only that much more difficult if Cam plays.
But, one thing that would bolster the Broncos’ hopes would be getting back their starting quarterback, Drew Lock.
Lock injured his throwing shoulder when he tripped and then was fallen on by Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. Since then, he’s been sidelined, but the Broncos declined putting him on the Injured Reserve, which has been specially shortened to three weeks this season.
In effect, Denver was likely always hopeful he could return for Week 5 at New England, and the young gun-slinger returned to the practice field on Wednesday. He’s been limited in both practices, and Vic Fangio didn’t buy into how moving the game by one day changes much for the QB’s return.
“I don’t think 24 hours would make much of a difference in that case,” the Broncos head coach said on Thursday. “I think besides just the throwing, which is the obvious evaluator to whether he’s able to play or not, you also have to know whether he’s capable both physically and mentally to take a hit or go to the ground.”
Before the game was moved, James Palmer made it sound like he believes Lock will play. But, we will all have to wait and see which direction the Broncos decide to go.
If it’s not Lock behind rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry, it will be Brett Rypien making his second straight start and second start of his career. In his first NFL start last week, Rypien was quite good for most of three quarters until he basically self-destructed and threw two late interceptions. Luckily, he and the Broncos were able to mount a last-minute drive — with his key run block — to not only hold onto the win, but cement their victory over the lowly Jets.
Rypien was asked about Lock’s return on Thursday and responded, “This is his team.”
And at 1-3, there’s not too much on the line for Denver in terms of pushing Lock to play. He could be their quarterback of the future, so why risk his health? There are currently five teams ahead of the Broncos in the AFC Wildcard picture, with three wildcard spots up for grabs in this year’s expanded playoffs.
Of course, the season is still young, and a win against New England — one of the teams ahead of Denver — would only help Lock and the Broncos’ playoff hopes down the road.
Denver (1-3) versus New England (2-2) was set for 2:25 p.m. MT originally, but will now be seen at 3:05 p.m. MT on Monday, October 12 on ESPN.