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2020 vision: Looking ahead to Denver's Week 5 matchup vs. the New England Patriots

From the franchise's first-ever game to its most-recent AFC Championship victory, the Broncos have a rich history against the Patriots. Take a look back through several of the most memorable wins with these photos.

The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another few months, but over the next few weeks, DenverBroncos.com will take an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.

It's never too early to start talking football.

We continue with Denver's Week 5 road game against the New England Patriots.

Storylines to monitor:

Over the last 19 seasons, the Patriots have won the AFC East on 17 occasions, earned a trip to the Super Bowl on nine occasions and hoisted six Lombardi Trophies.

Without Tom Brady in New England, will that success continue?

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has long been known for his ability to take away an opposing team's best weapon — but how will he fare without his own? New England's 2020 season could be the ultimate litmus test for Belichick's coaching prowess, and it's clear that many believe in him to help the Patriots challenge for a playoff berth. The longtime head coach is among the betting favorites to be the NFL's coach of the year.

Make no mistake: With or without Brady, New England will provide a stiff test for the Broncos — especially as Denver plays the second of back-to-back games on the east coast.

Arguably the AFC's best rivalry from the last decade, the Broncos and Patriots now enter a new chapter. This year's matchup could prove critical in wild-card tiebreaks later in the season.

Player to watch:

QB Jarrett Stidham

Stidham — assuming he's the Patriots' Week 5 starter — could decide the outcome of this game with his play. If he's able to avoid turnovers, move the chains at key moments and make the occasional big throw, that could be enough to help New England win a close game. If he plays like a relative rookie, though, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb could apply pressure and A.J. Bouye, Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson could force a turnover or two. That, it seems, would be the recipe for a Broncos win in a tough road matchup.

The truth of the matter, though, is that we don't know much about what to expect from Stidham. He threw just four passes last year during the regular season, so we're left to extrapolate from the preseason. He completed 67.8 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and an interception for a 102.6 quarterback rating during that action.

Miller made Brady's acquaintance often during the teams' previous meetings. Will he introduce himself to Stidham in game-changing fashion in New England?

The question mark:

How will Drew Lock fare against the Patriots' defense?

New England lost in the wild-card round of last year's playoffs, but the Patriots' defense was among the best in the league. Through the midway point of the season, New England positioned itself as one of the top scoring defenses of all time. While they slipped a bit to end the year, they still finished first in the league in both total defense and scoring defense. Opponents averaged just north of 14 points per game against New England. 

The Patriots were particularly dangerous against the pass, as they ranked second in passing yards allowed. Belichick, who has built a reputation for flummoxing young quarterbacks, could have quite the plan dialed up for Drew Lock and an incredibly young Broncos offense.

If Lock can play mistake-free football and distribute the ball to his host of playmakers, the Broncos' offense should be able to put up more points than a potentially limited Patriots offense. 

This game, though, has the makings of a defensive struggle.

An opposing view:

Megan O'Brien, a team reporter for the New England Patriots, on how she views the team's quarterback competition:

"There seems to be a perception that Stidham is the guy, but in my opinion, I think they brought back Hoyer for a reason. Especially given the circumstances of this offseason, I think we could see a situation where it very well might be Hoyer to start the season and perhaps as Stidham gets comfortable, we could see a switch. I do believe it is an open quarterback competition. I don't think the job is Stidham's. I think Hoyer's definitely in the mix, and depending on how all of this offseason goes with training camp, we could see a different situation — perhaps it's Hoyer starting. What I do think about Stidham is being around for a year, he's earned the trust of a lot of his teammates. Go back to some of the press conferences with Devin McCourty this offseason, and they just spoke about the way he carried himself as a rookie. I think that means a lot coming from a guy like Devin McCourty who's been around for quite a while. It will be interesting to see. If you go back and look at the fourth-round picks who have ended up having a career as a quarterback, there's not too many in recent years. It will be interesting to see what Stidham looks like. Looking back at last year throughout training camp and throughout the preseason, all you could say really is that he improved. But there wasn't a lot to see."

For more from O'Brien on the Patriots team the Broncos will see in Week 5, click here.

The last meeting:

The Broncos and Patriots played on an annual basis from 2011-2017 thanks in large part to both teams finishing at the top of their division on a regular basis. In addition to their seven regular-season matchups during that time frame, the Broncos and Patriots also met three times in the playoffs.

The Broncos, though, haven't faced New England since a 41-16 loss in Denver in 2017. Brady threw three touchdowns in that win, and the Broncos struggled to put points on the board as they mustered just one touchdown. That loss came in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and pushed the Broncos to 3-6 on the season. 

Denver last played at Gillette Stadium in 2014.

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