By KYLE HIGHTOWER - Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Maybe the third attempt will result in a kickoff between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

After having their original Week 5 matchup twice postponed because of a mini-outbreak of coronavirus cases on the Patriots that saw four players, including quarterback Cam Newton and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, test positive, the teams are hopeful they will finally play on Sunday.

But during an NFL season that has already forced multiple teams to adjust their schedules and endure long layoffs between games, the underlying sentiment among players is that nothing is certain in the shadow of the pandemic.

“I think just with this season, you had an understanding from the get-go that things can constantly change,” Patriots running back Rex Burkhead said. “Anything could happen.”

Due to the disruptions last week, the league retroactively made Week 5 both teams’ bye week. But because of safety concerns the Patriots didn’t return to the practice field until Thursday.

If the game does indeed begin as scheduled on Sunday, it will be 13 days since the New England last played a game and 17 days for the Broncos, who beat the Jets in a Thursday night matchup on Oct. 1.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio said though their layoff has been longer, it helps that they did have a normal week of preparation last week even though the game was ultimately postponed.

“It’s not like we’ve been totally inactive during that time,” Fangio said.

Though he said they did basically have to start from “ground zero” again this week.

“Obviously, there will be some recall from the work that we did last week but we did want to start all over,” he said.

Those preparations now include getting ready for the likely return of Newton and Gilmore. Newton was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday, followed by Gilmore on Thursday.

Newton’s initial positive test was Oct. 2, two days before the Patriots’ loss at Kansas City. New England is 2-1 with him as its starter. Gilmore tested positive on Oct. 7.

According to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, a player who tests positive can return after 10 days have passed since the initial positive test or following two consecutive negative virus tests 24 hours apart.

Gilmore’s return to action wouldn’t be good news for a Denver passing offense that ranks 27th, averaging 214 yards per game. The Broncos also have also thrown six interceptions in 2020, third most in the league behind Philadelphia (9) and Minnesota (7).

“We’ll have to see how it goes. We haven’t had an opportunity to do much in the last 10 days or so,” Belichick said. “That’s with everybody, it’s not specific to any one individual player. But just in general, we’ve talked about getting back into things and evaluating as we go.”

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DENVER DRAMA

Melvin Gordon III is coming off his best game — and a very bad decision. Gordon ran for 107 yards and two TDs in Denver’s win over the Jets two weeks ago but he was cited by Denver police for driving under the influence and speeding. That opens the door for Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos’ two-time 1,000-yard rusher who’s been out since sustaining a turf toe injury in the opener.

LUCKY LOCK

Brett Rypien would have made his second consecutive start had the Broncos and Patriots played last weekend. Now, it’s almost certain that starter Drew Lock will be back from the sprained right shoulder he suffered in Week 2.

“I’m upset that our game was canceled, we had a little (change) in schedule and lost our bye week later in the year,” Lock said. “But I’m also excited that it means I miss fewer games than I was supposed to, and that makes me happy.”

O-LINE ADJUSTMENTS

This could mark the third straight game that the Patriots have had to make adjustments on the offensive line because of injuries.

Starting center David Andrews remains on injured reserve (hand). Left guard Shaq Mason began the week still dealing with the calf injury that sidelined him for the Kansas City loss. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has started all four games this season, also is recovering from a calf injury.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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Patriots hope to extend recent success at home vs. Broncos
Associated Press

DENVER (1-3) at NEW ENGLAND (2-2)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS

OPENING LINE — Patriots by 10

RECORD VS. SPREAD — Broncos 3-1; Patriots 2-2

SERIES RECORD — Broncos lead 30-23

LAST MEETING — Patriots beat Broncos 41-17 on Nov. 12, 2017 in Denver

LAST WEEK — Broncos beat Jets 37-28 on Oct. 1; Patriots lost to Chiefs 26-10 on Oct. 5

AP PRO32 RANKING — Broncos No. 27; Patriots No. 9

BRONCOS OFFENSE — OVERALL (29), RUSH (29), PASS (27).

BRONCOS DEFENSE — OVERALL (16), RUSH (13), PASS (22).

PATRIOTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (8T), RUSH (2), PASS (24).

PATRIOTS DEFENSE — OVERALL (11), RUSH (18), PASS (12).

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES — The Patriots have won six of the past seven meetings, including four straight in New England. … The Broncos haven’t won a road game in the series since beating New England 17-7 on Sept. 24, 2006. … Denver QB Brett Rypien beat the Jets in Week 4 when he became the first quarterback to win his first NFL start despite throwing three interceptions since Jim Druckenmiller in 1997. ... Starter Drew Lock (right shoulder) returned to practice Wednesday on a full-time basis after being limited during the game’s original preparations last week. ... RB Melvin Gordon rushed for a season-high 107 yards and two TDs in Week 4 and had 132 yards and a touchdown in his only career game against the Patriots in 2017 as a Charger. ... Gordon’s availability is in question after he was cited by Denver police for driving under the influence and speeding Tuesday night. Broncos coach Vic Fangio said they are considering their own discipline for Gordon in addition to whatever punishment the NFL hands down. ... RB Phillip Lindsay is back from a three-game absence after suffering a turf toe injury in the opener. ... WR Tim Patrick had six receptions for a career-best 113 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, and rookie WR Jerry Jeudy had 61 yards receiving and his first career touchdown catch. ... OLB Bradley Chubb led the league with 10 quarterback pressures lin Week 4 , when he had 2½ sacks, his first takedowns since returning from a torn ACL. ... ILB Josey Jewell had a pair of sacks among his team-high 10 tackles against the Jets. … The Patriots are an NFL-best 65-19 in the month of October since the 2000 season. … The Patriots get back quarterback Cam Newton after he was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. … QB Brian Hoyer started in Week 4 in place of Newton but was pulled late in the third quarter in favor of Jarrett Stidham. Stidham had a touchdown pass, but threw two interceptions. … New England turned over the ball four times against Kansas City, its most turnovers since it had five in a 33-10 Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh in 2008. … RB James White needs two receiving touchdowns to tie Larry Garron (26) for the most in franchise history by a running back. ... RB Damien Harris led the team with a career-high 100 rushing yards in his season debut in Week 4. … WR Julian Edelman has 24 catches for 274 yards and three touchdowns in his past three meetings with Denver. … WR Damiere Byrd had five catches for a season-high 80 yards in Week 4. … LB Ja’Whaun Bentley led the team with six tackles at KC. … LB Chase Winovich is looking to get a sack for the third straight game. ... Fantasy tip: New England’s offense has eclipsed 200 yards rushing in each of its first two home games this season.

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