This wasn’t the plan.
But Sunday’s scheduled afternoon showcase against the New England Patriots is now a primetime Monday clash after COVID-19 struck the NFL this week. A game with AFC playoff implications all of a sudden has even larger stakes concerning the health of the NFL season. It kicks off a 5:05 p.m. ET and can be live-streamed the Yahoo Sports app.
Cam Newton won’t play in AFC showdown
The matchup was slated to pit Mahomes against a resurgent Cam Newton as the former Carolina Panthers quarterback has revitalized his career in his first three games in New England. But the Patriots placed Newton on the COVID-reserve list on Saturday, and the NFL postponed the matchup after the Patriots announced that a player had tested positive for COVID-19.
The NFL also confirmed that a player for the Chiefs tested positive for COVID-19.
Newton’s placement on the reserve list confirms that he’s potentially been exposed to the coronavirus. He addressed his health on Sunday in an Instagram post thanking fans for their support while vowing to “take this time to get healthy.”
Hoyer expected to start
Regardless of his health status, Newton will not play in the game that the NFL confirmed for Monday after neither team reported more positive tests on Sunday. The Patriots are expected to start veteran Brian Hoyer in Newton’s place, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Can Patriots compete without Newton?
Hoyer, an 11-year veteran who started in brief stints with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Chicago Bears, spent five seasons backing up Tom Brady in New England and is familiar with the Patriots system.
He’ll face perhaps the toughest test of his career on Monday against the Super Bowl champion Chiefs fresh off a 34-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. What was billed last Monday as matchup between the two top teams in the NFL was a lopsided affair well in favor of the Chiefs, who have started the season 3-0.
The 2-1 Patriots were thriving in their first year without Brady, thanks largely to the resurgence of 2015 league MVP Newton as one of the game’s most dynamic and dangerous weapons at quarterback. The single blemish on their record arrived after they fell one yard short of beating Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks on the road in Week 2.
Now the Patriots will likely resort to a ball-control offense under Hoyer and hope their defense can slow Mahomes’ electric offense enough to keep things close. It will be a tall task, especially considering the added weight of the COVID-19 scare surrounding the team.
High stakes for NFL
Pro Football Talk reported on Sunday that the Patriots plan to travel on two planes to Kansas City — one with players who were potentially exposed to the infected player and the other with players who didn’t have close contact. Only one player has tested positive for New England, but COVID-19 can take days after exposure to render positive tests results. Players can have the virus without testing positive.
And that again speaks to the larger stakes attached to Monday’s game. The NFL has already postponed this week’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Tennessee Titans matchup following an outbreak among the Titans. The last thing the NFL and its players want to see is more cases surfacing from Monday’s game.
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