The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos will finally face off at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, a week after their previously scheduled contest was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Patriots’ facility. Quarterback Cam Newton, who sat out Week 4’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after testing positive for the coronavirus, returned to practice on Thursday and will start against the Broncos.
Denver will get its starting QB, too. Drew Lock is set to return after missing the past two contests with a right shoulder injury.
The Patriots (2-2) look to improve to 3-0 at home this season. The Broncos (1-3) have not won at Gillette Stadium since 2006. Ahead of the Patriots’ Week 6 matchup, here are four bold predictions for Sunday.
1. Julian Edelman scores first TD of season
Julian Edelman exploded for a career-high 179 receiving yards in Week 2, but has been quiet since. He totaled just five catches for 58 yards in his past two games. Edelman has a great bounce back opportunity against the Broncos, who have been shredded by opposing wideouts.
The Broncos have allowed 16.8 receptions per game to wide receivers, the second-worst mark in the NFL. Edelman’s outlook is bolstered by the projected absence of cornerback A.J. Douye, who is doubtful with a shoulder injury.
With Douye sidelined, Essang Bassey will remain the team’s primary slot cornerback. Bassey has struggled mightily, giving up 12 receptions on 14 targets with 120 yards and a touchdown.
Jets had success going after Broncos UDFA Essang Bassey.
Something you expect Belichick to see. pic.twitter.com/wUB4kQDVWw
— AJ Atencio (@hittingpaydirt) October 6, 2020
Edelman has yet to reach pay dirt this season. But with Bassey lining up against him, the 34-year-old wide receiver will produce big numbers and score his first touchdown of 2020.
2. Cam Newton throws for 275-plus yards
Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has had success as the Patriots’ signal caller through the air and on the ground. In Week 1, it was his legs (75 rush yards, 2 TDs) doing the heavy lifting, before logging 397 passing yards the following game. Against the Broncos, Newton will likely be doing his most damage as a passer.
The Broncos have surrendered the eighth-most passing yards per contest (275.8). They have coughed up seven passing TD’s in four contests. Meanwhile, their stout rush defense has given up only one touchdown on 88 carries.
Well aware that their best chance of offensive success will come in the passing attack, look for the Patriots and Newton to air it out on Sunday. Newton will register at least 275 passing yards, well above his season average (238).
3. Patriots force 3-plus turnovers
The Patriots’ defense played well against the Chiefs in their 26-10 defeat. They actually allowed just two TD’s, as the Chiefs scored one of their touchdowns on a pick-six thrown by Patriots backup QB Jarrett Stidham. The Patriots limited former MVP Patrick Mahomes to a season-low 19 completions for 236 yards.
After holding Mahomes in check, the Patriots will overmatch the Broncos’ offense. Drew Lock’s return will, admittedly, give a boost to the offense. However, Lock’s current core of pass catchers is unreliable. Courtland Sutton is out for the season, Noah Fant (ankle) and K.J. Hamler (hamstrings) are on the wrong side of questionable for Sunday, while Jerry Juedy has not reached 65 yards receiving in any game.
Turnovers have been a problem for the Broncos, who have committed eight (fifth-most in NFL) through four weeks. That trend should continue against the opportunistic Patriots’ defense. Despite a difficult schedule, the Patriots have accumulated eight takeaways, recovering four fumbles and intercepting four passes.
Look for the Patriots to force at least three turnovers in what could be a game to forget for the Broncos’ offense.
4. Patriots win and cover the spread
The Patriots are 9.5-point home favorites. It’s a big spread, but the Patriots are capable of beating the injury-riddled Broncos by two scores.
The Broncos’ offense is a mess. They rank 27th in the league in passing offense, posting merely 214 yards per game. Their top rusher, free agent addition halfback Melvin Gordon, was charged with a DUI on Tuesday. Gordon’s status is now in question for Sunday. His DUI comes after he produced his best game as a Bronco, darting for 107 yards and two TD’s in Denver’s win over the New York Jets two weeks ago.
Gordon, who is likely facing a multi-game suspension at some point this season, is a critical piece of an underperforming offensive group. Even he is active, the Broncos will struggle to crack 20 points in what should be a double-digit loss against the Patriots.