There has been a lot of talk about how tough Denver's schedule will be this year. This is largely due to the way the NFL chooses which teams will play which each season. The NFL uses the following format for scheduling:
|1||Each team will play the other teams in it's division twice (once at home, once away). So Denver will play Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego two times each for 6 of their 16 games.|
|2||Each team will play all of the teams in another division within their own conference (this is done on a three-year rotating schedule). This year, the Broncos will face the teams of the AFC North -- Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. This brings the total to 10 games.|
|3||Each team will play all of the teams in a division from the other conference (this is done on a four-year rotating schedule). This year, Denver faces off against the NFC South -- Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina and Tampa Bay. Now the Broncos have 14 of their 16 games scheduled.|
|4||Each team will play two teams from within their own conference who finished in the same place in their own divisions. Thus, the Broncos, having finished first in the AFC West will face two 1st place teams from other AFC divisions. This year, they get to play Houston (1st in the AFC South) and New England (1st in the AFC East).|
A Quick History Review
This was not however, the same format used to create the Broncos' schedules during their first ten seasons. In fact, some of Denver's seasons had some rather interesting scheduling oddities.
Take a jump with me
When the AFL started play in 1960, it did so with eight teams, divided into two divisions: the AFL East and the AFL West.
The AFL East was composed of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), the New York Titans (who would change to the New York Jets in 1963), the Buffalo Bills and the Boston Patriots (now the New England Patriots).
The AFL West was composed of the Los Angeles Chargers (who would become the San Diego Chargers in 1961), the Dallas Texans (who would become the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963), the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders (who for a time would be the Los Angeles Raiders before moving back to Oakland).
The AFL expanded in 1966 when the Miami Dolphins were added to the AFL East. The league expanded a second time with the addition of the Cincinnati Bengals to the AFL West.
From 1960-65, each team played the other seven AFL teams twice, once at a home and once away. Denver's fortunes during this time were not particularly promising.
The 1960 Season
This inaugral season started with three road games (Boston, Buffalo, New York). Denver went 2-1-0 to start their AFL existence. The Broncos then got a 5-game home stand (Oakland, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Houston). They were not as good at home, going 2-3-0 to bring their record to 4-4-0. They closed out the season by going 0-5-1 to finish at 4-9-1.
The odd thing about the 1960 schedule was a sequence of four games in which Denver played Dallas then Houston at home, then went on the road to play the same two teams. As a footnote, all four of those games were losses.
The 1961 Season
The Broncos second season began with a 4-game road trip (Buffalo, Boston, New York, Oakland). Denver went 1-3 on this trip before coming home for a 3-game home stand (Dallas, Oakland, New York). The Broncos won two of those three games to bring their record to 3-4-0. Unfortunately, they lost the last seven games of the season and finished a disappointing 3-11-0.
The 1962 Season
For the first time, the Broncos got to open a season at home. They won that season opener 30-21 over San Diego. Four of the next five games were on the road (@Buffalo, @Boston, @New York, Oakland, @Oakland). Denver won four of those five games to open their season at 5-1-0. Unfortunately, the Broncos finished the season by going 2-6-0 despite playing five of their last eight games at home.
The odd thing about the 1962 schedule was that Denver played Oakland on consecutive weekends -- the first at home, the second in Oakland. As a footnote, Denver won both of those games (44-7 at home, 23-6 on the road).
The 1963 Season
The Broncos opened the 1963 season at home, and in fact, played four of their first five games at home. Sadly, they were only able to go 2-3-0 in that span. Three of the next four games were on the road and resulted in three losses and a tie to drop their record to 2-6-1. Denver finished out the season by dropping their last five games and finished with a franchise-worse 2-11-1 record.
Once again, the Broncos faced a given team on consecutive weekends. This time it was Buffalo -- a 28-30 home loss followed by a 17-27 road loss.
The 1964 Season
Denver played five of their first eight games on the road and 1-7-0 before going on to match the previous season's 2-11-1 record.
The 1965 Season
Once again, the Broncos started with lots of road games (4 out of the first 6) and split those six games. The Broncos then dropped 7 of their last 8 games to finish the season at 4-10-0.
The odd thing in this season was the fact that they once again faced Oakland in consecutive weeks (a 20-28 home loss, followed by a 13-24 road loss).
The 1966 Season
The addition of the Miami Dolphins for the 1966 season threw a new twist to the schedule. This year, the Broncos faced each of the AFL West teams twice. They also played Houston, Boston and Miami twice. New York and Buffalo were played one time each.
In this schedule, the odd item was that Denver had two 3-game home stands and never played more than two games in a row on the road. However, they were still only able to muster a 4-10-0 record.
The 1967 Season
In this season, the Broncos faced Oakland, San Diego, Kansas City, New York, Houston and Buffalo two times each and had one game against Boston and one against Miami.
The odd thing in 1967 was that Denver never played more than two consecutive games at home and had one 3-game road trip. Sadly, they finished the 1967 campaign at 3-11-0.
The 1968 Season
This season saw the AFL balance the divisions by adding the Cincinnati Bengals to the AFL West. This gave Denver eight games against division rivals. They also played Boston twice that year while facing off against New York, Miami, Houston and Buffalo just once.
Though the Broncos never had to play more than two consecutive games on the road (nor at home), they had to open the season with 4 of their first 6 games on the road and only managed a 2-4-0 record for their efforts. The rest of the season didn't look much better as they went 3-5-0 to finish with a 5-9-0 record.
The 1969 Season
This season would mark the last year that the Broncos would play as an AFL team. They played their division rivals along with Houston two times each while facing Boston, New York, Buffalo and Miami just one time each.
This year, Denver got to play 4 of their first 5 games at home. Unfortunately, they only managed a 2-3-0 record. The Broncos played 6 of the next 8 games on the road and went a miserable 2-5-1. They were able to close out the season with a 27-16 victory over Cincinnati at home to finish with a 5-8-1 record.
As you can see, there were some odd nuances to the Broncos' schedules during their AFL days. Things such as
1)playing Dallas then Houston at home then Dallas and Houston on the road in consecutive weeks
2)playing Oakland on consecutive weekends in two different seasons
3)playing Buffalo on consecutive weekends one season
4)opening their very first season with a 3-game road trip, to be followed by
5)then opening their second with a 4-game road trip, to be followed by
6)playing 4 of the first 5 games in their 3rd season at home, to be followed by
7)playing 5 of the first 8 games of the 4th season on the road, to be followed by
8)playing 4 of the first 6 games of the 5th season on the road
While it's true that the Broncos simply were not very good in their early years, you can't help but wonder if the schedules they were handed didn't, at the very least, exacerbate their problems.
So, the next time you find yourself feeling unhappy about the Broncos' schedule, take a little comfort in knowing that, at least they won't have to face San Diego (nor Oakland, nor Kansas City) on consecutive weekends.