When Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos, the NFL decided that sending Denver to Foxboro for the next three years would be a fair trade off. The last time the Broncos hosted the New England Patriots, was when Tim Tebow was the starting quarterback. So why have the Broncos traveled to New England in three consecutive years? Let's delve deeper.
Each team plays their divisional opponents twice, home and away, to account for six games. Another four games come against four teams from another division in the AFC on a rotating three-year cycle. Four more games will be played against four teams from a division in the NFC on a rotating 4-year cycle.
Now the final two games are chosen differently. They are inter-conference games that match teams against opponents who finished with similar placement in the standings. First place teams face other first place teams, second place teams face second place teams and so on. Each team plays one inter-conference game at home and one on the road.
In 2011, the AFC West played the AFC East, matching the Broncos against the Patriots. Both teams finished their seasons in first place in their respective divisions, which matched them as inter-conference opponents again in 2012. Their other opponent determined by this formula, were the first place Houston Texans.
In 2013, the Broncos and Patriots were again matched up as first place teams, with the Broncos also facing the Baltimore Ravens. This season, the AFC West was matched up with the AFC East yet again. In 2011 the Broncos hosted, so this time around it is New England who was determined as the host. Denver faced Indianapolis at home once again and will take on the Cincinnati Bengals on the road this week for their inter-conference games.
With this knowledge, the Broncos and Patriots have yet again been paired as opponents for the 2015 season, with the Broncos hosting the matchup for the first time since 2011. Denver will also travel to face Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, as their other first place matchup. For 2015, the AFC West is on cycle to play the AFC North, whom they faced during the 2012 season. The AFC West will also face the NFC North, whom they last faced during the 2011 season.
In addition to their divisional opponents and the Patriots, the Broncos will also have home games against the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings. Denver will have away games against the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, in addition to their divisional games.
The Broncos will undoubtedly face one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this upcoming season, as there are only three opponents on their schedule who are out of the playoff picture this year. Their opponents have a cumulative record of 107-77-1 and a winning percentage of .719, even including the 2-12 mark the Oakland Raiders have posted this season.
A unique matchup to look forward to will be Manning's second return to Indianapolis to conquer the house he built. Of Manning's many accomplishments, he has yet to win an away game against each team in the NFL, and beating his former team in Indianapolis would lock up another record for him.
The talk of 2015 will likely revolve around quarterback matchups, with games against the trio of No. 12's; Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck. With other games against Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton and potentially Johnny Manziel, the Broncos have a difficult lineup of opposing quarterbacks.
With tons of storylines and intrigue, the Denver Broncos 2015 season will be a dream for the NFL.
It should also be noted, the Broncos are scheduled to host the Patriots in 2017 and it is possible, if both teams finish the 2015 season in first place that the teams will meet again in 2016.