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Drew Lock? Cam Newton? Broncos' Week 5 matchup impacted by QB uncertainty

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The date of the Broncos' Week 5 game has changed.

The uncertainty around the quarterback position for both the Broncos and Patriots has not.

As the Broncos and Patriots prepare for a 3 p.m. MT kickoff on Monday, neither team has made a definitive statement about who will start at quarterback.

In Denver, the Broncos continue to evaluate the progress of Drew Lock, who hasn't played since suffering a shoulder injury against the Steelers on Sept. 20. Head Coach Vic Fangio said Friday the Broncos will continue to evaluate him and that Lock would likely start if he's healthy enough to play Monday.

"Drew practiced a little bit more yesterday," Fangio said Friday. "Obviously, we're not going to practice today. We'll see how he's doing tomorrow. It's still open and up in the air as to who will play on Monday night."

If Lock is unable to play, Brett Rypien would get the start for the Broncos. He finished 19-of-31 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his first start against the Jets.

"At the end of the day, I understand my role," Rypien said Wednesday. "This is Drew Lock's team. Drew Lock has been the leader of this franchise for the past year, and he's done an unbelievable job at that. From my standpoint, I have to do what I can to help him and help this team win. And if that means playing this week and helping our team win this week, that's what I'm focused on. I don't really look at it from a standpoint of him taking an opportunity away from me. I look at it like I'm getting an opportunity, and if he comes back, then that's an opportunity for me to help him."

Fangio said Thursday the Broncos would balance reps between Rypien and Lock by "feel" and what he saw on the practice field.

Meanwhile, in New England, the Patriots may have a tougher hurdle to clear to have Cam Newton available. The former league MVP remains on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list after being placed there Saturday, and he would have to test negative twice — separated by 24 hours — to be able to return to the active roster.

Despite Newton's roster status, Fangio said the Broncos are preparing to face the Patriots' starter, who has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 714 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and also carried the ball 35 times for 149 yards and four touchdowns in three starts.

"We've been under that assumption the whole time that he would be playing, and then adjust if he's not, just like Kansas City did last week when he got the late positive test in the week," Fangio said. "Just like Pittsburgh did against us when Drew got hurt in the second series, just like you have to do every week in case the starter doesn't play for whatever reason. So, we're anticipating Newton playing but we'll be ready if he's not the quarterback."

If Newton cannot play, the Patriots will turn to either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham. Hoyer started Monday's game against the Chiefs and completed 15-of-24 passes for 130 yards, one interception and two sacks. He was benched after being strip-sacked in the red zone late in the third quarter, and Stidham replaced him. In relief, Stidham completed 5-of-13 passes for 60 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Hoyer's 59.4 quarterback rating was 20 points higher than Stidham's.

MILLER'S RETURN

During a series of interviews on Friday, Von Miller emphasized that his return during the 2020 season would not be dependent upon the Broncos' playoff standing.

Fangio said it may be a few weeks before the Broncos receive a status update on Miller's recovery, but he agreed that he hopes to see Miller back on the field when he's medically cleared.

"I haven't heard anything from the medical people recently about where he's at in his recovery," Fangio said. "I don't think we'll have a guesstimate on that until later this month or early November to see where he's at with his rehab. I know he's been in a cast and I do know that he's getting out of that cast relatively soon and can start a more vigorous rehab, and we'll see how that goes. I'm not going to say that he can't do it or that he will do it, but I agree with him that if he's medically cleared to play and he feels good to play and he wants to play, then we all want him to play."

AN EXTRA DAY

The Broncos will get another day of preparation before they play Monday, but that may not change the game statuses of several injured players. Fangio said he thinks KJ Hamler will still miss Monday's game and that it "probably" doesn't change Noah Fant's or Jeremiah Attaochu's statuses, either. Lock's status could change depending on the Broncos' Saturday practice.

Mike Purcell (knee) has also not practiced this week, and Fangio said LeVante Bellamy suffered a knee injury that is not "a long-term thing" but will likely keep him out this week. 

WEEK 6 IMPACT

After the NFL announced their Week 5 game would be moved to Monday, the Broncos will now face a short week before their Week 6 game in Denver against the Dolphins. Fangio said the team's typical Wednesday practice would be adjusted but they would be prepared for the change.

"We'll adjust to the Miami game week just like you always would when you come off a Monday night game," Fangio said. "Obviously, the players will have Tuesday off and we'll adjust our Wednesday because of the Monday game. And we'll be fine heading into Miami with our preparations there."

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