The Broncos Game will open an NFL campaign with a new starting quarterback for the fourth straight season, but they are doing what they can to avoid watching their playoff drought extend to five years.
Denver acquired Jurrell Casey and A.J. Bouye while signing Graham Glasgow, Melvin Gordon III and using the franchise tag on Justin Simmons.
As much as the Broncos did right, their record will likely hinge on the performance of quarterback Drew Lock. The 2019 second-round pick threw for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in five starts.
If the 23-year-old improves, then Denver could be looking at the postseason. If his development hits a snag, then erratic quarterback play could again doom the franchise’s hopes of a winning record.
Denver Broncos Schedule
Game 1: vs San Francisco 49ers | August 13-17 (TBD)
Game 2: vs Chicago Bears | August 20-24 (TBD)
Game 3: vs Los Angeles Rams | August 27-30
Game 4: vs Arizona Cardinals | September 3
Week 1: vs Tennessee Titans (MNF) | September 14
Week 2: vs Pittsburgh Steelers | September 20
Week 3: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers | September 27
Week 4: vs New York Jets (TNF) | October 1
Week 5: vs New England Patriots | October 11
Week 6: vs Miami Dolphins | October 18
Week 7: vs Kansas City Chiefs | October 25
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: vs Atlanta Falcons | November 8
Week 10: vs Las Vegas Raiders | November 15
Week 11: vs Los Angeles Chargers | November 22
Week 12: vs New Orleans Saints | November 29
Week 13: vs Kansas City Chiefs (SNF) | December 6
Week 14: vs Carolina Panthers | December 13
Week 15: vs Buffalo Bills | December 19 or 20 (TBD)
Week 16: vs Los Angeles Chargers | December 26 or 27 (TBD)
Week 17: vs Las Vegas Raiders | January 3
Tom Brady may no longer be a member of the New England Patriots, but he’ll still match up against the Broncos as the AFC West is paired with the NFC South.
The good news for Denver is that its two trickiest games with NFC South teams are both at home, with Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints forced to make trips to Empower Field at Mile High.
The Broncos will be underdogs against the Bucs and Saints but have a puncher’s chance at altitude.
Denver was also fortunate to draw the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills at home. The Bills addressed one of their biggest needs when they traded for Stefon Diggs, and the Titans are effectively running it back with last year’s roster. They lost Jack Conklin but re-signed Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry.
If ever there was a year to play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, this is it. Rather than pursuing a star passer such as Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, the team penciled in Jarrett Stidham as the starter. Bill Belichick appears to be taking a long view as he embarks on the post-Brady era.
It’s safe to assume the Kansas City Chiefs will be the class of the division in the AFC West, but the battle for runner-up will be a crap shoot.
Although that might not seem like a significant distinction, nine wins was enough to claim a wild-card spot in the AFC in two of the last three seasons. A second-place finish in the West could feasibly put the Broncos in the playoff hunt.
It’s also an attainable goal.
The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers are in a position somewhat similar to Denver. They have solid rosters yet large question marks at quarterback.
The Raiders signed Marcus Mariota to potentially be this year’s version of Tannehill if Derek Carr starts slowly, while the Chargers will have a new signal-caller (Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert) for the first time since 2005 following the departure of Philip Rivers.
The Broncos’ path to the postseason will probably require picking up at least three wins from their meetings with Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Record prediction: 8-8