April predictions mean approximately nothing. How can you pretend to have a clue what's going to happen when a team like the Denver Broncos doesn't even know who they'll be starting at quarterback? How do you project how two teams will match up against each other when they haven't even finished building their roster through the draft?
To quote the great Mike Singletary: "Can't do it!"
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... However, there's something to be said about the ebb and flow of the NFL schedule that makes it far more unique than any other major American sport. In the NBA and the MLB, there are long road trips, clusters of games without any rest, and cushy home stands. But eventually, with a schedule comprised of 82 or 162 games, things always even out in the end.
Not so in the NFL. 17 weeks, 16 games, 13 opponents. Not all schedules are created equally.
And although the Broncos have the toughest strength of schedule as we're looking at it in late April, that's not going to factor in quite yet. There's too much turnover and unpredictability to know if that will truly be the case by season's end. More often than not, it isn't the case.
So without further ado, let's take a cursory glance at the 16 games on Denver's 2017-18 schedule. Hopefully there ends up being a few more in 2018.
Week 1: Denver Broncos vs. Los Angeles Chargers Sept. 11 8:20p ESPN
I love the charm of the nightcap to ESPN's annual Monday Night Football doubleheader. It typically involves Chris Berman trying to figure out where he is, unleashing dated musical references throughout the game, and desperately trying to keep people tuned into an awful game usually involving the San Francisco 49ers.
Not so this year, Boomer has moved on, all of the musical references will likely be post-Eagles, and both teams are relevant, interesting squads heading into 2017. Since this is the opener, there's a number of firsts coming out of this game.
It's the first game of the Los Angeles Chargers era. It's the first game for first-time head coaches Vance Joseph and Anthony Lynn. It's the first shot for either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch to prove himself after winning the quarterback competition. The first of five primetime games for the Broncos.
And it's the first time the Broncos have opened up on Monday night since 2011, when a 23-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders opened up John Elway's reign as GM. Who could forget the sure-handed play of Kyle Orton in that game?
A divisional win would be an excellent way to start the season off strong. A loss at home makes you quickly reevaluate things.
Week 2: Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys Sept. 17 2:25p FOX
For the second straight year, the Broncos are opening up with a two-game home stand to kick off the season. And it's a doozy against the NFC's one seed from a season ago. If it's Lynch getting the start, that would add a lot of intrigue to this one.
Both teams, Denver and Dallas, shared interest in both Lynch and Dak Prescott prior to the 2016 NFL Draft. Dallas reportedly wanted Lynch badly and settled for Prescott on the third day. I think they'll take the way things shook out in hindsight, even though we haven't drawn our conclusions on Lynch after one year.
What really would have made this game interesting is a certain quarterback who hung up the cleats in favor of the headset. But I swore I'd never speak that name again...
This will undoubtedly be FOX's "Game of the Week." I'm sure they're still upset CBS got to broadcast the last game between these two teams. You might remember it.
Week 3: Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills Sept. 24 11:00a CBS
The first road game of the year for the Broncos, and it's a bit of a hike to western New York to wake up early for the morning game. We know about teams struggling when they have to travel west to east, but at least this one is earlier in the year when the weather in Buffalo isn't subzero and Bills Mafia is still diving shirtless into breakaway tables in the parking lot.
Calling plays for the Bills in 2017 is none other than Rick Dennison, Denver's offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016. It'll be intriguing to find out who has the edge: Denver's defense after practicing against Dennison's offense for two years, or Dennison's knowledge of how to exploit the Broncos defense during the same period.
Week 4: Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders Oct. 1 2:25p CBS
It's... the... Las-- wait, Oak-- no, Las Vegas/Oakland Raaaaaiders. The second divisional match-up of the season and a really crucial game taking place in just the fourth week of the season. After splitting the series last year, the Broncos need to take advantage of their home-field advantage and steal the first game before meeting them again in... Oakland? I think.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1773030-can-denver-afford-to-reac... Obviously the Raiders fulfilled the many predictions that they would take off and make the playoffs prior to last season, but we'll get a big early test and see if they're here to stay or just a one-year wonder. Will Derek Carr be the same player after breaking his leg on Christmas Eve?
Week 5: Denver Broncos vs. The Bye Week
This is the worst. No one wants a bye week this early in the year. Fortunately, the NFL did away with Week 4 bye weeks like the one they handed the Broncos in the 2014 season, so they waited a couple years and then gave the Broncos the next best thing. Week 5!
Vance Joseph, ever the optimist, somehow spun this scheduling injustice into a positive for his team.
“I think the [anticipation of the] bye week is always based on where your team is at that moment—Injuries and how you rest your football team," Joseph said. "Early, mid or late, it’s all game planned around where your team feels. Having it early after four games, it’s a good deal.
I place the season in quarters. In the first four weeks, we get our first quarter over then we have our bye. It’s always good. You hope to be successful obviously in that first quarter. But, to have that chance in week 5 to reboot and reset it again is important.”
Needless to say, I wholeheartedly disagree, but this is what you want to hear out of your head coach. No one likes a team that thinks everyone is out to get them.
Week 6: Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants Oct. 15 6:30p NBC
Another complaint to the NFL's schedule makers: four out of the first five games are at home. Maybe we could spread that out a little more evenly? Whatever man.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1771699-broncos-draft-rewind-will... That being said, I love a good Sunday Night Football game in Denver. Al and Cris truly are the best on TV. The last time the Broncos were at home on NBC, they lost that heartbreaker to the Chiefs.
Ah, but it was Mike Tirico in the booth rather than Michaels. The Broncos haven't lost a home game called by Al Michaels since Jay Cutler's first start in 2006, a 23-20 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. How's that for advanced stats?
The big match-up everyone will be going crazy about prior to this one is Denver's No-Fly Zone against the Giants receiving corps. Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard versus Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby.
It's a pretty good match-up on the other side as well: former Bronco Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins trying to keep up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Potentially a big test for the running game.
Week 7: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Oct. 22 2:25p CBS
Another shot at the newly-minted L.A. Chargers. But this time, it's actually in Los Angeles (Carson, CA to be exact). Not to mention, it's the first game of a three-game road trip for the Broncos. Another tough draw this season.
For the next two years, the Chargers will play their home games at StubHub Center, primarily a soccer stadium that houses the L.A. Galaxy. Unfortunately, it only holds 27,000, so only about 25,000 Broncos fans will be able to make it for this one. A slight decrease from the last couple of years at Qualcomm.
I jest, but if by Week 7 the Chargers aren't still in the mix in the AFC, the football-fickle Los Angelinos may lose interest or simply switch to the Rams (if they're any better). I'll never count out a team led by Philip Rivers, so expect this one, and the opener in Denver, to be a tough battle.
Week 8: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Oct. 30 6:30p ESPN
Fitting that the most treacherous road game of the season comes a day before Halloween. Playing in Arrowhead is obviously always a challenge, as evidenced by the game that ruined everyone's Christmas night last year, but the Monday-night atmosphere will give the K.C. crowd an extra jolt. As if they needed one.
This year, the Broncos need an answer to Tyreek Hill. Suffice to say, allowing him to score four touchdowns in two games is not a strategy that lends itself to success. Perhaps new special teams coordinator Brock Olivo, who served as a special teams assistant under Dave Toub in Kansas City, can help to stop the very doomsday weapon that he helped to create. I am prepared for many sideline cutaways from ESPN.
The Broncos haven't beaten the Chiefs since Jamaal Charles fumbled the game away in September of 2015. Time to change that.
Stay tuned for Part 2.