One week ago, the New England Patriots were entering Week 5 with some major questions regarding two of their biggest stars: both starting quarterback Cam Newton and number one cornerback Stephon Gilmore had recently tested positive for the Coronavirus and had to be moved to the NFL’s Reserve/Covid-19 list. The chances of them playing against the Denver Broncos were quasi nonexistent despite both staying asymptomatic.
Then came Byron Cowart’s diagnosis, however, and with it the postponement of the game. Instead of meeting on Monday, the contest against Denver was pushed back to Sunday in Week 6 — giving the Patriots a surprise bye week, and also increasing the chances of both Newton and Gilmore eventually returning to the lineup once the game actually takes place. The fact that they were back on the practice fields on Thursday only strengthens this belief.
It is therefore little surprise that fans are feeling pretty good about New England heading into this weekend: according to SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey, 91 percent of participants believe that the team is moving in the right direction — an increase of six percentage points since the previous survey last week, and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the ninth best across the league five weeks into the regular season.
The outlook of having Newton and Gilmore back in the lineup, combined with the fact that the team has had no new positive Covid-19 tests since defensive tackle Byron Cowart’s last Saturday, is certainly a major contributing factor. The Patriots, plain and simple, are a better team with both in the lineup — even though seeing Jarrett Stidham start his first ever game since arriving last year might have been a tantalizing outlook for some.
Still, Newton will run the show when the Patriots take on a Broncos team that does not enjoy quite the same approval as its opponent: “only” 58 percent of fans participating in the Reacts survey are feeling good about Denver, despite the team likely also getting its own starting quarterback — Drew Lock — back from a shoulder injury that has kept him out since the second week of the season.
If you are interested in participating in our NFL Reacts survey, please sign up here!