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Mile High Morning: Drew Lock, Cam Newton near expected returns ahead of Week 6 Broncos-Patriots game

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The Lead

As many expected, the Broncos and Patriots appear to be on track to get their starting quarterbacks back after their Week 5 matchup was postponed until Week 6.

On Wednesday, Cam Newton took the first step toward a return to game action as he was activated from New England's Reserve/COVID-19 list. Newton was originally placed on the list on Oct. 3.

The Patriots did not practice on Wednesday, but Patriots.com's Mike Dussault reported that the team expects to return for on-field preparation on Thursday. If Newton is able to practice in full on Thursday and Friday, assuming that is New England's plan and assuming they're able, he could very well be able to play on Sunday.

A healthy Newton returns the Patriots' offense nearly to its full potential (starting RB Sony Michel is on injured reserve). In reshaping their offense after Tom Brady departed, New England has put their complete trust in Newton's hands. He's not only conducting an efficient passing attack with a 68.1 completion percentage, he also leads the team in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns.

New England could get their top defensive player back, too, as the Boston Globe's Jim McBride reports that cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is also expected to return to practice on Thursday.

Not to be left out, the Broncos are trending in the right direction to receive healthy reinforcements for Sunday's game. Quarterback Drew Lock practiced in full on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury on Sept. 20, and tight end Noah Fant, who suffered an ankle injury in Week 4, was a limited participant. Cornerback A.J. Bouye, who has been on injured reserve since Week 1, also took part in practice; though he is still on IR at the moment, the Broncos now have a 21-day window to return him to the active roster.

Below the Fold

Last week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick discussed his brief stint with the Broncos as an assistant coach and how much he learned from it. ESPN's Jeff Legwold dove a bit deeper, though, talking with Broncos Ring of Fame cornerback Louis Wright, Orange Crush defensive coordinator Joe Collier and others about what they remember of the now eight-time Super Bowl champion.

How big would a win over the Patriots be for the Broncos? As The Denver Post's Kyle Newman writes, it could put Denver's season back on track. "[T]he underdog Broncos must find a way to limit Cam Newton and find dents in the stingy New England defense to spring an upset," Newman writes.

The Unclassifieds

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