If they shouldn’t have played Monday, a fairly-popular stance in the wake of Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore’s conditions, then why in the name of Debbie Birx are the Broncos and Patriots still slated to face off this weekend?
Not surprisingly, the NFL has itself a burgeoning COVID-19 problem, a situation that anyone outside of Roger Goodell’s circle of Yes Men could have predicted before the 2020 season kicked off last month. The list of Tennessee Titans with the virus keeps growing, no thanks, in part, to double-secret practices the team led while under quarantined prohibition. Mike Vrabel’s team might not play another game until Thanksgiving for all we know.
In New England, only Newton, Gilmore, and practice squad member Bill Murray have tested positive for coronavirus, but those could only be the first results. COVID-19 has been known to stay dormant to testing, until, Wham-O, it spreads to the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Who knows if it spread to Kansas City last week. Should the Broncos even feel safe coming to Gilette?
“If as a team we decided it wasn’t safe and we didn’t want to go because it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t be able to do that. It’s not legal in our contract to do that,” Denver kicker Brandon McManus told the Denver Post’s Mike Kiszla, who opines that the Broncos should refuse to play in the game on Monday.
It’s an argument partly because of the health risks involved, but also because the Patriots would be at a disadvantage of sorts seeing as they’ve had nothing but virtual meetings up until Friday. “Unless you live along Allen Iverson in the camp that believes practice is highly over-rated, the Broncos have already gained an unfair competitive advantage against New England,” Kiszla wrote.
Whether or not the Patriots, even with Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham at quarterback, even need practice to prepare for the terrible Broncos is one thing.
To be denied the right to practice in the first place is unjust, no matter the opponent.
At some point, those in charge of the NFL are going to have to look at alternative approaches to the season. Because even if the Titans are forced to forfeit every game from here until Black Friday, it’s only prudent to point out that we’re in Week 5.
The outbreak isn’t going to magically revert itself just because of TV ratings.
Is it too late to start a bubble?
This week’s predictions:
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 23, Broncos 13. “A quarterback mess both ways. Pats’ Cam Newton seems unlikely again to play after testing positive for coronavirus, which means either Brian Hoyer or Jason Stadium after both struggled last week. For Denver, injured Drew Lock seems unlikely, which would mean Brett Rypien again. Two solid defenses, but NE’s is more likely to dominate the QB, even with Stephon Gilmore (virus) out. Sans Cam, though, the bet line feels fat.
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Patriots (No line). “The Patriots (2-2), meanwhile, are still waiting for Newton to come back from the Covid-19 list, and last week they started Brian Hoyer (who was terrible) before turning to Jarrett Stidham (also terrible). Adding to the mess is New England’s best defensive player, Stephon Gilmore, reportedly joining Newton on the Covid-19 list. More positive tests could theoretically delay this game, but if they are able to play it’s a tossup, with the advantage going to the home team with the better coach.
Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Patriots (-11). “This is the kind of team the Patriots dominate. One dimensional. Quarterback deficient. The Patriots had a great plan vs. Patrick Mahomes, and will have another here vs. whatever the Broncos throw at them.”
MMQB staff: Everyone likes the Patriots.
ESPN staff: All Pats.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 30, Broncos 20. “The Patriots could have Cam Newton back here, which would be huge. The quarterbacks weren’t good in the loss to the Chiefs without him. Denver won at the Jets last Thursday, but struggled to do so. They will struggle here as well — no matter who plays quarterback for the Patriots.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “Since Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham both stink, yeah, I’ll take 8 points.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 23, Broncos 10. “The Patriots go from rare double-digit underdogs to more usual double-digit favorites. It really doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for Denver. The Patriots’ defense will stuff Melvin Gordon first and trust their safeties and cornerbacks to contain things downfield with tough tight end matchup Noah Fant missing the game. Who’s ever at quarterback at New England, Damien Harris can help the Patriots run all over the Broncos’ front and also hit on some deep pass plays.”
Bill Bender, Sporting News: Patriots 28, Broncos 19. “Both teams have quarterback questions here. Will Drew Lock be back from injury? Will Cam Newton be cleared after testing positive for COVID-19? New England is the better team, and this game makes us long for the days of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Broncos 17. “The Patriots are the better team, if they ultimately have a team that can be put on the field.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Broncos 20. “The COVID-19 situation surrounding the Patriots is alarming, but if this game is able to go on, I think they’ll beat the injury-plagued Broncos without much difficulty.”
FiveThirtyEight: Sixty percent, Patriots (-3).
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Patriots 20, Broncos 14. “This game’s quarterback matchup could be Cam Newton vs. Drew Lock. Or it could be Brian Hoyer vs. Brett Rypien. Or it could be Jarrett Stidham vs. Brett Rypien. The game will not include Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, and it’s set to include a Patriots team that didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday. Neither Hoyer nor Stidham got starter snaps before Monday night’s loss to the Chiefs, and the nation saw how that worked out. In a matchup of unknowns, New England’s running game, second in the league with 719 yards, is the best guess to rule the day.”
NFL Pickwatch: Ninety-five percent going with the Pats.
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