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Bold 2016 prediction: Broncos take AFC West, vie for conference title once again

It's going to be tougher than the past five years, but the defending AFC West champs (who just happen to be the Super Bowl champs, too) will take the division - and conference - again. Mark it.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Broncos Country!

It's starting to feel like real football now that we're taking a break from quarterback rumors and talking about the actual games that will actually be played this season.

And if you ask me, the Broncos' schedule is a darn good one.

But if you ask the guys at, they apparently think the Broncos will crash and burn as they consider both the Panthers and the Colts to have among the easiest schedules in the part because of playing the Broncos.


The disrespect to this team is astounding. Sure, there's a question mark at quarterback. Sure, some top players defectedwere traded. Sure, some rival teams definitely improved in the offseason.

But how can you say things like, "Even though the final year of Peyton Manning's career was a bit of a mess, we're assuming the Broncos will be slightly worse this season, if not markedly worse than they were in 2015."

Assuming slightly worse if not markedly worse??

Nonsense. Did they forget Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe, Sylvester Williams, Brandon Marshall, Aqib Talib, Chris HarrisDarian Stewart, T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby still play for the Broncos defense? A defense that, oh by the way, is coached by the Assistant Coach of the Year and his bear-wrestling compadre?

Admittedly, I drink the orange and blue Kool-Aid on a regular basis, but to assume that no Peyton Manning means suddenly no one at the Broncos can play football anymore is to be smoking too much of the wacky weed.

No, this will not be an easy season (are they ever?) but as my favorite GM likes to say, there's "a lot of upside" to this schedule. And yes, we could easily be 10-6 or 11-5. We could also be 16-0. Keep the faith!

1. Super Bowl rematch to open on prime-time TV

Cam Newton and the Panthers will come to Mile High seeking revenge. And my bet is Newton will be a lot less talkative before the game and Ron Rivera will have his team fired up to show the world what they thought they could do in Super Bowl 50.

But this game will be at Mile High, with championship fans making it riotous and the altitude making it breathless. If there's ever a game where our offense and its new QB is taking on the 2015 NFC champs and its very worthy defense, it's the first game of the year when all teams are a little rusty. And with eight of 11 returning starters on defense, I'm sure Newton will still running from Miller & Co.

Plus, it's primetime, and this team loves the lights.

2. Road, bye schedule favorable

Broncos open with two home games before having to go on the road and end at home against an AFCW rival.

Sometimes a late bye week just doesn't come soon enough, but given that Broncos will play Thursday, Oct. 13, at San Diego and then not play until two following Mondays later at home against the Texans, there is a nice mini-bye in the first third of the season.

The bye week will come before a rather tough final stretch that will see the Broncos face the Chiefs twice, the Raiders and the Patriots. Having a rest in Week 11 may just save the Broncos.

3. Mile High welcomes Panthers, Patriots, Texans and Colts

Aside from playing our AFC West foes at their home stadiums, Broncos got the luck of the draw with teams coming to Denver.

The Panthers will be a tight game, much better to be in Denver. The Colts have been a huge rivalry of late and the Broncos have two recent losses to Indy to erase, and a home crowd makes that tall task easier.

The Texans have J.J. Watt and that's about it. Oh, and apparently a hotshot quarterback who's making a ton of money after just playing seven regular season games. Can't wait to see if he's any good and if this is the beginning of a beautiful rivalry.

And, of course, the Patriots. As usual, the world expects them to be atop the AFC this year, so if all goes as it should, this game could decide home field advantage once again. So once again, it's nice this game is going through the Mile High City.

Bring on the Mile High Magic!

4. Lots of prime-time games

While I'm biased here because prime-time games mean that even in the Carolinas I'll get to see the Broncos, I also think our players get hyped up for the night games.

And hyped up Broncos = winning.

Granted three of our five are away games, I don't buy into conspiracy theories (sorry, Tim!). Rather, the Broncos have tons of experience playing in big away games, so I think they could even have an advantage over their opponents. Plus, playing at San Diego is just like playing at home :)

5. We could be the Miami Dolphins

Can you say, "screwed?" Seriously, new head coach and former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase gets to start off with two away games across the country from each other - Seattle in Week 1 and New England in Week 2.

And of their first seven games before the bye, four are against playoff teams from 2015.

My way-too-early-in-the-season prediction:

16-0 (until we ain't), baby!

"Any time you win your division, you're going to get the top dogs in the other divisions in the AFC," Elway said of having New England and Cincinnati on the schedule. "When you come off a world championship, you're going to get everybody's best shot."

When you come off a world championship, you're going to get everybody's best shot. -John Elway, Broncos' GM

Like Elway, I know it's almost impossible to win back-to-back Super Bowls, so I'll temper my enthusiasm a bit for the sake of reality and dial my 16-0 back a bit to 12-4 (I'm superstitious and 13-3 doesn't work out as well for us in the end!)

Truth is, Broncos could just as easily be 11-5 as 16-0, but I think the team leaders, the motivation to win and the coaching staff will keep this team fired up and prepared for victory.

But in reality, I think we'll split 1-1 against both the Chiefs and the Raiders and could lose to either the Patriots or Panthers at home as well as the Bengals on the road, giving us a 12-4 record - still good enough to take the AFC West and vie for the entire conference.


Horse Tracks - NFL Schedules news

John Elway eyes prime-time matchups, late division run for 2016 schedule
John Elway offered his thoughts on the Broncos' 2016 schedule, which begins with a Super Bowl rematch.

2016 Denver Broncos game-by-game predictions - AFC West- ESPN
As one would expect, the Broncos will be tested as defending Super Bowl champs, not only with a Panthers rematch but another meeting with the Patriots.

Carolina Panthers to open season with Super Bowl rematch against Denver Broncos | The Charlotte Observer
The Carolina Panthers get a Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos on Thursday night to open the 2016 season.

Breaking down the Patriots’ 2016 schedule | Boston Herald
The Patriots schedule for the 2016 season is out, and Tom Brady’s crew will be on the road to start the season.

Raiders 2016 NFL schedule: Way too early game by game predictions, analysis - Silver And Black Pride
It's WAY too early to be making predictions, but let's do it anyway. Here is my game by game prediction of the Raiders 2016 schedule.

Chiefs 2016 NFL schedule: Dates, times, strength of schedule and more - Arrowhead Pride
Hellllooooo, Kansas City Chiefs 2016 NFL schedule. Arrowhead will be rockin' this year as the Chiefs stadium hosts a December game against the Raiders and CHRISTMAS NIGHT at Arrowhead against the Broncos.

San Diego Chargers 2016 Regular Season Schedule Released - Bolts From The Blue
The 2016 NFL regular-season schedules have been released, which means it's time to scour over the San Diego Chargers schedule to see how the league is attempting to screw them. (Kidding....)

Which teams got the most fortunate schedules? -
There are no easy games in the NFL, but certains got more fortunate slates for 2016 than some of their peers. Which teams are primed for a run? Conor Orr examines.

Which NFL teams are facing the toughest schedules? -
It's difficult to determine in April which teams will have to traverse the rockiest roads to the postseason, but here's a look at the teams staring at potentially brutal regular-season slates.

'Thursday Night Football' features quality matchups -
'Thursday Night Football' will be more accessible than ever in 2016, and that's good news for fans because there are plenty of intriguing matchups.

Horse Tracks - Other news

Matt Paradis signs tender with Broncos; Nick Kasa waived - The Denver Post
There wasn't much doubt, but the Broncos have locked up their starting center for the 2016 season.

Connor Cook makes predraft visit with the Denver Broncos - The Denver Post
The search for the Broncos' next franchise quarterback continues as the team hosted former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook for a predraft visit Thursday, an NFL source confirmed.

Is Google throwing shade at the Denver Broncos? | Broncos Wire
If you are a Denver Broncos fan, do not Google search "demolish." You've been warned.

Los Angeles Rams betting big that top pick will become franchise QB
The Rams must be of the belief Carson Wentz or Jared Goff will become a star, and former Rams assistant Rick Venturi sees that potential in both.

Where the NFL stands in its push to base a team in London -- Q&A
With the NFL likely pushing to have a franchise based in London within five years, here are 10 questions looking at why it would work, how it would work and why it might not.

Report: Packers to be first visitors at new Vikings stadium | ProFootballTalk
The Vikings will be playing their first season at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016 and they will reportedly be playing their first game at their new digs against an opponent that they've seen plenty of times before. Rob Demovsky of ESPN.