All NFL teams experience ups and downs. The New England Patriots’ downs are higher than just about every other team.
Being under .500 five weeks into a season isn’t ideal, but it happens. For the Patriots, that hasn’t happened since 2001. Of course, that season they rallied to win a Super Bowl.
The Patriots are having an odd year in many ways. Tom Brady is gone. COVID-19 has affected their schedule twice already. And more surprising than anything, they are in danger of slipping below .500 after five games for the first time since early in Brady’s first season as a starting quarterback. The Patriots will try to avoid slipping to 2-3 when they face the Denver Broncos, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
The timing of the game speaks to the challenges New England has already faced this season.
Broncos-Patriots getting odd start time
The Broncos-Patriots game was supposed to be a fairly quiet and unexciting Sunday afternoon game, mixed in with the others in the early window. But at least one positive COVID-19 test on the Patriots forced a shift to Monday.
The game will have a weird start time, at 5 p.m. ET. That’s 3 p.m. for Broncos fans in the Mountain time zone. Work production will plummet about that time in Colorado.
As of Friday, the Patriots were facing the possibility of being without arguably their two most important players, starting quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon GIlmore, last season’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Both are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Last week without Newton, in a game that was moved to Monday due to COVID-19 concerns, Brian Hoyer was terrible in Newton’s place and had to be replaced by Jarrett Stidham. The Kansas City Chiefs beat them 26-10.
The Patriots’ reliance on Newton seemed obvious. They look like a playoff contender with him and struggled without him. And a few days before the game against the Broncos, the Patriots were at the mercy of Newton having two negative tests 24 hours apart and being cleared by a team doctor.
For a team that tries to control and eliminate distractions, this season has to be a rough one. And we’re only a quarter into it.
Patriots trying to avoid falling too far behind Bills
The Broncos have their own issues. They have lost key players like receiver Courtland Sutton, pass rusher Von Miller, running back Phillip Lindsay and quarterback Drew Lock to injuries, though Lock might return for the Patriots game. Denver is 1-3, trying to stay relevant this season.
Normally the Patriots would be expected to roll over the Broncos. They still might, but there are many more questions than usual. For the first time in a long time, the Patriots have another AFC East team to worry about. The Buffalo Bills are 4-0. They have also been affected by COVID-19 changes this week. Buffalo’s Week 5 opponent, the Tennessee Titans, had an outbreak. The Bills-Titans game will be played Tuesday if the Titans have no further positive tests. In the best-case scenario, the Bills will kick off against a Titans team that has not been allowed to practice as usual and might be missing several key players. It’s feasible the Patriots are three games back in the AFC East by the time Week 5 ends. That’s hard to believe for a team that has won 11 division titles in a row.
When we have talked about the Patriots being vulnerable before, it’s in terms of them maybe being knocked off in the playoffs before they reach and win another Super Bowl. Like everything else in 2020, we’re experiencing some things with New England that we haven’t seen in a long, long time.
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