After doing an exceptional job of quarantining players and coaches from coronavirus through the first three weeks of the season, Week 4 has seen several teams experience minor to severe outbreaks of COVID-19. Here’s how those outbreaks appear to affect the Broncos and the rest of the league as a whole.

Week 5 matchup against Patriots could be much closer

While the Titans’ coronavirus outbreak has been the most serious of any team in the league, with 16 players currently testing positive and their Week 4 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers delayed until October 25th, the Patriots’ might be the hardest-hit team otherwise.

As of now, Cam Newton is the only player testing positive for the highly contagious virus, but that’s a key piece to be without for up to a month and a half. Even if Newton is asymptomatic, or recovers incredibly quickly, it seems likely at this point that Jarret Stidham could start the first game of his career against the Broncos.

The dropoff from Newton to Stidham will be a steep one. Stidham was reportedly a turnover machine all throughout training camp, which is part of the reason his competition with Newton was so short-lived, and the 2015 MVP has been playing fantastically. He’s completing 68 percent of his passes (nine percent higher than his career average), and has rushed for just 33 yards less than Lamar Jackson through three weeks.

Fortunately for the Patriots, Cam Newton is so far their only player to test positive for Coronavirus.

The outbreak also negatively affects the Patriots, because their Week 4 game has now been rescheduled to Monday with a 5 p.m. MT kickoff time pending negative tests, which means Bill Belichick will have one less day to prepare for the Broncos than he normally would.

Pair that with Vic Fangio’s announcement that Drew Lock has “A 50-50 chance of returning for Week 5,” and it’s not crazy to think that a game that looked like a blowout on paper less than a week ago, could now be a competitive toss-up.

NFL considering the addition of 18th week

This change shouldn’t affect the Broncos too much, unless they make a surprise playoff run or have a COVID outbreak of their own, but it will definitely make this NFL season even different from any before.

According to Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, both of the NFL-owned and operated NFL Network, reported that the league is considering adding a buffer Week 18 to the schedule that would be used for teams that need to re-schedule a team due to coronavirus.

If the NFL were to implement adding Week 18, they would remove the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. This would also make it so that every playoff team would now get at least one bye week, with the top seed in each conference getting two, assuming they don’t have a game rescheduled due to COVID-19.