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The schedule changes both help and hurt the Denver Broncos

(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

This season in the NFL was going to be weird due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, we got about a month into the regular season and we’ve seen multiple schedule changes due to positive tests in team buildings.

The Broncos were supposed to play the Patriots on Sunday in Week 5, but that game was moved to Monday due to multiple Patriots players testing positive. Then, their matchup was then postponed further on Sunday. This move of one game also caused other games on the Broncos schedule to be moved.

The Patriots game is next Sunday, their game against the Dolphins was moved from Week 6 to Week 11 on Nov. 22, and a game against the Chargers was moved from Week 11 to Week 8, Nov. 1.

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio knew this could be a possibility in 2020.

“Initially I knew it was a possibility. It’s just part of the COVID season here that we’re playing. There is going to be adjustments that have to be made. They’re going to happen late. They’re going to happen when you might not be prepared. I was prepared for this. We’re just going to roll with the punches and adjust. My initial message to the team all the way back in training camp was that this was going to be an improvise and adjust season, and we’re being called on to improvise and adjust. We’ll do that,” Fangio said.

The schedule change for the Broncos both helps and hurts the Broncos. Let’s examine both reasons why that’s the case.

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Return of Lock?

Broncos starting quarterback Drew Lock was close to returning in Week 5 against the Patriots. Since the game has been pushed back one week, there’s a good chance we see Lock return to the field in Week 6.

Lock has been recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder he suffered earlier this season in the game against the Steelers. I watched him in practice last week and thought his arm looked good and his release seemed like it was natural.

Fangio likes what he’s seen from the young quarterback during his recovery.

“I think he’s progressing well. I don’t think he would have played if we played tomorrow. Although, I think in some ways, he could have. The extra week will factor into that decision moving forward, but we’ll see. We didn’t give him many reps with the first-team offense this past week. We’ll see how he progresses in the next 72 hours and see how much better he gets and go from there. We’ll see,” Fangio said.

Getting Lock back on the field would be a huge boost for the Broncos. Brett Rypien looked good as a starter against the Jets the last time out, but Lock gives the team the best chance to win – especially against a quality opponent like the Patriots.

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Bye Bye – Bye

The Broncos were supposed to have their bye week in Week 8 of the NFL season. Now, they’ve had their bye week in Week 5 – even though they did not get any time off.

The Broncos practiced all last week not knowing their game would be pushed back one week. Instead of getting a normal bye week – and being able to travel home or wherever they want – the team has to stay in Denver as they prepare for the Patriots – again.

This is an unusual season in an unusual year – and we’re still two months away from the New Year! Broncos players are upset for missing out on their true bye week – and for good reason. However, a little perspective is needed during a pandemic. This is unfair for the Broncos but at least they still have their jobs, and they will be playing although inconvenienced.

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Back-to-Back Star Quarterbacks

Now that the Broncos game against the Patriots has been moved back, the team is set to face star quarterbacks in successive weeks. Even though Lock should return to the lineup for the Broncos – giving them the best chance to win – the Patriots are likely to be getting star quarterback Cam Newton back, as well.

While Lock has been recovering from a shoulder injury, Newton has been working back from a positive COVID-19 test. He does not have any symptoms, but did test positive and needs more negative tests before he can get back to the field.

Newton spent much of the offseason without a team, but the Patriots scooped him up and he looks rejuvenated in the Josh McDaniels offense.

After the game against the Patriots – because the game has been moved – the Broncos then take on the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and their superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. The team does not get any breaks with the Patriots game moved as beating Newton is tough and beating Mahomes may be even tougher.

The Broncos season is pretty much a wash. Beating the Patriots would be a good thing, but to me the most important thing for the Broncos this year is not the number of W’s they get. Instead, the team needs to see what Lock has. Can he be the franchise quarterback they envision? He needs to stay healthy and show that he can go toe-to-toe with star quarterbacks like Newton and Mahomes.

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No Whiners Allowed

We’ve already seen some Broncos take to social networking to protest the NFL moving their game against the Patriots. Players like Shelby Harris, Melvin Gordon and Justin Simmons (among others) have shared how dismayed they’ve been with the game getting moved.

On Sunday, Fangio talked about how this change would show who can deal with this and who can’t.

The name of the game in the NFL is overcoming adversity. Harris, Gordon and Simmons are all quite capable of dealing with adversity – and they’ve got good reasons for feeling the way they do. We’ll see if there are any whiners on the Broncos roster and what Fangio does to rectify that situation.

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