NFL

COVID-19 Just Forced the NFL to Drastically Alter Patriots-Chiefs Matchup

When news emerged that Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, it immediately led to speculation about Sunday’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Would the NFL move forward with the star-studded showdown? Or would the league move the game back as a result of the coronavirus?

But with players from both teams testing positive, the NFL just got forced to drastically alter the matchup between the two most recent Super Bowl champions. And now, the Patriots must find a way to win without their star quarterback in the lineup.

The Patriots and Chiefs were set to square off on Sunday afternoon

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So far, the Patriots and Chiefs look like top AFC contenders once again. Though New England has dealt with significant roster changes, the team sits at 2-1 thanks in large part to Cam Newton. The former No. 1 pick has acquitted himself well in his brief tenure as the team’s starting quarterback.

His running ability helped the Patriots score a season-opening victory against the Miami Dolphins. In Week 2, Newton turned in a vintage performance in which his arm did most of the talking. Last week, he actually did not play much of a factor in the team’s 36-20 win against the Las Vegas Raiders. Still, heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs, the Patriots had to feel fairly confident given Newton’s strong start.

Meanwhile, Kansas City looks well-balanced, as the team ranks fourth in scoring and sixth in points allowed. Patrick Mahomes has played at an MVP level through three weeks, including a sensational four-touchdown outing against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.

The defense completely shut down Lamar Jackson, which certainly had to give the unit confidence heading into this weekend’s showdown against Newton and the Patriots.

COVID-19 just forced the NFL to alter the star-studded matchup

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While Cam Newton’s positive COVID-19 test generated plenty of attention, it turns out he’s not the only player from the Patriots-Chiefs matchup dealing with the coronavirus. Ian Rapoport reported via Twitter that Chiefs QB Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive for COVID-19. Naturally, that forced the NFL to drastically alter Sunday’s showdown.

Adam Schefter first reported that the league postponed the Patriots-Chiefs game. Shortly after, the NFL announced official schedule changes for Week 4. Instead of playing at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Kansas City and New England will play on either Monday or Tuesday. According to Schefter, the game will likely take place on Tuesday.

As a result of the postponement, the league also moved the Colts-Bears game back to 4:25 p.m. The two squads were scheduled to play at 1 p.m.

Assuming the game gets pushed back to Tuesday, that at least gives the Patriots a chance to alter their plan on offense. After all, without Newton in the lineup, New England must find a different way to win on the road.

Can Brian Hoyer beat the Chiefs?

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With Cam Newton on the COVID-19/reserve list, Rapoport reported that Brian Hoyer will likely start against the Chiefs. While Jarrett Stidham may be the quarterback of the future, the second-year pro has been inactive in each of the team’s first three games.

Instead, the Patriots will entrust Hoyer to run the offense against one of the league’s top defenses. Of course, the 34-year-old has spent the majority of his NFL career backing up Tom Brady, so he has intimate knowledge of Josh McDaniels’ system.

However, the downgrade from Newton to Hoyer cannot be understated. While the former can make plays with his legs, the latter does not offer that type of athleticism or big-play ability. Hoyer also does not boast Newton’s arm strength, which could further limit the offense.

Ultimately, McDaniels may go with a similar approach as last week. Against the Raiders, the Patriots ran the ball 38 times for 250 yards. Sony Michel led the way with 117 yards on just nine carries. Rex Burkhead accounted for 49 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and another 49 yards and another score through the air. J.J. Taylor, an undrafted free agent who made the team, ran for 43 yards on 11 carries.

Plus, with James White returning to the lineup, the Patriots boast a deep arsenal of running backs with different skill sets. Given Newton’s absence, it makes sense for McDaniels to lean on that group to carry the load against the Chiefs.

Still, Hoyer will have to make at least a few plays in the passing game in order for the Patriots to win a tough road matchup. Can the veteran backup step up as a fill-in for Newton?

We’ll find out soon enough.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.