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HT: Best matchups in the Broncos’ 2017 schedule

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There should be a lot of good games to watch this season.

Denver Broncos v San Diego Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

The Broncos’ 2017 schedule has been released, making the upcoming season that much closer to reality and all our predictions just a little less wrong.

Opening on Monday Night Football and hosting four more prime time games, the Broncos’ bye is Week 5 with a mini-bye at the end of the season.

Despite the Broncos having the toughest strength of schedule in the league and facing eight playoff teams next season, the 17-week outline does include some favorable breaks too - such as Miami in December and Buffalo in September; and Patriots, Cowboys, Giants all at Mile High.

ICYMI, here’s the full regular season in all its glory:

Broncos 2017 Schedule

Wk Date Opponent Time (MT) TV
Wk Date Opponent Time (MT) TV
1 Sep 11 vs. Los Angeles Chargers (MNF) 8:20 PM ESPN
2 Sep 17 vs. Dallas Cowboys 2:25 PM FOX
3 Sep 24 at Buffalo Bills 11:00 AM CBS
4 Oct 1 vs. Oakland Raiders 2:25 PM CBS
5 BYE
6 Oct 15 vs. New York Giants (SNF) 6:30 PM NBC
7 Oct 22 at Los Angeles Chargers 2:25 PM CBS
8 Oct 30 at Kansas City Cheifs (MNF) 6:30 PM ESPN
9 Nov 5 at Philadelphia Eagles 11:00 AM CBS
10 Nov 12 vs. New England Patriots (SNF) 6:25 PM NBC
11 Nov 19 vs. Cincinnati Bengals 2:25 PM CBS
12 Nov 26 at Oakland Raiders 2:25 PM CBS
13 Dec 3 at Miami Dolphins 11:00 AM CBS
14 Dec 10 vs. New York Jets 2:00 PM CBS
15 Dec 14 at Indianapolis Colts (TNF) 6:25 PM NFLN
16 Dec 24 at Washington Redskins 11:00 AM CBS
17 Dec 31 vs. Kansas City Chiefs 2:25 PM CBS

The bye week is a little early for my taste, but as Ian St. Clair has pointed out, in recent seasons when the Broncos have had an early bye, they have finished the post-bye weeks with a winning record. And the year the Broncos won the Super Bowl, they had a bye in Week 7. Hopefully this kind of history will repeat itself.

But before someone dare mention that we should predict the season W-L record, let’s consider some completely moot but more fun aspects of the schedule:

Toughest three-game stretch:

I’m going to go with weeks 8, 9 and 10.

The Broncos fly to Kansas City for an Oct. 30 Monday Night Football game, then back to the East Coast for the Nov. 5 contest with the Eagles after a short week, returning home Nov. 12 to face the best team in the NFL right now - the Patriots (and New England, by the way, will have just come off a bye - #$%^&@#).

Adding gasoline to the fire, the Broncos’ three-game stretch comes right after an away game on the West Coast with AFC West rival, the Los Angeles Raiders.

But weeks 12-16 could have a tough three-game combo in there as the Broncos will be on the road four out of five weeks with all road trips to the East Coast - yikes!

Part of Vance Joseph’s game plan for this stretch is making sure that defense is on point.

“Playing good defense on the road is always a must - keeping the point totals low and controlling the football, not turning the football over,” he said, noting that two of the three are division opponents. “You have to play well on the road to be a playoff team. It doesn’t bother me. Obviously, three straight is a great challenge. I’m looking forward to it.”

Best rivalry game:

Patriots, of course.

Although the Chiefs and Raiders are tied at second for this honor - and arguably more important as division rivals - the Super Bowl 51 champs (a.k.a. most-despised team in the NFL) currently own the best rivalry with Denver since any road no matter how unlikely, to another Super Bowl will “go through” New England.

Of course.

Most interesting matchup:

There are several good choices here. I’m torn between the Giants - No Fly Zone vs. Odell Beckham Jr. - and the Cowboys - Dak Prescott vs. Paxton Lynch in a head-to head battle for best second-year quarterback in the league (but we all know it will be Jerry Jones vs. John Elway as two of the most ruthless GMs in the business).

No matter, the real intrigue comes from the Cowboys being the NFL’s best offense in 2016 while the Broncos were its best passing defense.

So I’ll go with Cowboys v. Broncos here - partly for the nostalgia of Super Bowl XII and/or 2013’s Manning-Romo gun-slinging show - and partly for the current dominance on difference sides of the ball that will make the matchup an interesting one.

Two most crucial games to win

The first one...and then the rest of them.

OK, so all of these games are crucial to win, but here we are looking for the two games that if the Broncos do not win, it could completely derail the season.

No. 1 - Monday Night Football home opener versus Los Angeles Chargers

While beating a division rival is very important and looking good on prime time television is nice, the main reason for winning this one is that it sets the tone for the season.

It’s great the Broncos get to open at home once again (because nothing is more electric than a packed Mile High Stadium for a prime time game), but opening at home with a loss could deflate not only the fans’ spirits but the players’ will.

Players feed off a great crowd, and the Broncos have had the best for decades. But a bummed out crowd after a first-game loss may not be recoverable in terms of genuine excitement for the season. And that would be bad all the way around.

Also, new head coach Vance Joseph sees it the same as me.

“My eyes go to Week 1. It’s important to get off to a great start,” he said. “It’s a home game and it’s in division, so that’s important.”

No. 2 - Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 30

I’m tempted to go with the Nov. 26 Raiders game in Oakland because it’s also a division rival and also at a point in the season where all games are virtually must-wins, but I think the AFC West rival game against the Chiefs edges it out slightly, mostly because of playing at Arrowhead and shutting up those fans for the rest of the season.

Beating the Chiefs at Arrowhead midway through the season will not just bolster the Broncos’ confidence but will deflate a very cocky fanbase.

It also strikes me as a big momentum game for either team - winning propels the team with renewed energy through the rest of the season; losing cripples it.

Top 3 home games

I’ve already got my sights set on either the Cowboys game or the Patriots game for a visit to Mile High but the home opener against the Chargers or the season finale against the Chiefs could bump one of those out. Not to mention, the matchup between the #NoFlyZone and OBJ...

Ah, so many choices (and so few winning lottery tickets).

Poll

What do you believe is the toughest game on the 2017 schedule?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Patriots. It’s always the Patriots.
    (175 votes)
  • 27%
    Chiefs at Arrowhead. I hate playing there.
    (81 votes)
  • 3%
    Cowboys. But our D will best that O.
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Giants. The No Fly Zone is going to be tested.
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Raiders. They keep getting better (but don’t tell them we said that)
    (15 votes)
  • 3%
    "Shasta"
    (9 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now

Horse Tracks

Broncos open as 4-point favorites over Chargers in Week 1 | Broncos Wire (Broncos Wire)
The Denver Broncos have opened as 4-point favorites over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season on Monday Night Football.

Everything you wanted to know about the Broncos’ 2017 schedule | Andrew Mason
Your one-stop guide to the upcoming season.

Rapid reaction: Breaking down the Broncos' 2017 schedule (Denver Broncos)
Thoughts and observations on the Broncos' 2017 schedule.

Winners, losers of 2017 NFL schedule release (ESPN.com)
The league packed its prime-time schedule with its best draws, the Falcons avoid the Pats for seven weeks, and the Raiders face a difficult stretch.

2017 NFL schedule release: Ranking top nine prime-time games - NFL.com (NFL.com)
Patriots v. Broncos makes the list.

Easiest NFL schedules in 2017? Colts sitting pretty - NFL.com (NFL.com)
Since reaching the 2014 AFC title game, the Colts have posted back-to-back 8-8 seasons. Are Andrew Luck and Co. set up to make a run? Conor Orr reveals the NFL's most fortuitous schedules.

Broncos players, media react to 2017 season schedule (Denver Broncos)
Some reactions from #BroncosTwitter.

2017 Denver Broncos game-by-game predictions - Denver Broncos Blog- ESPN (ESPN.com)
The Denver Broncos have plenty of chances to prove themselves against a tough schedule in 2017.

Raiders 2017 season schedule observations: Brutal second half, franchise record in prime time, more - Silver And Black Pride (Silver And Black Pride)
No more leaks. No more speculation. The schedule is out. So let’s break it down. Here is that schedule to reference as we go through it.

Chargers schedule 2017: Dates, game times, future opponents, tickets and more - Bolts From The Blue (Bolts From The Blue)
The Los Angeles Chargers 2017 schedule is finally out.

Chiefs schedule 2017: Patriots are 7-point favorites in early line - Arrowhead Pride (Arrowhead Pride)
The Chiefs will open the 2017 season against the Patriots in New England. You couldn’t ask for a tougher first game than the defending champs in their own house.

PODCAST: Huddle Up — Voch Lombardi Helps Break Down Paxton Lynch & Ronald Leary - Denver - Scout (Scout.com)
Carl Dumler and Nick Kendell welcome in YouTube NFL Draft analyst Voch Lombardi to break down Paxton Lynch and newly signed guard Ronald Leary. The fellas also pick Voch's brain on how the Broncos can build their offense through the Draft.

T.J. Ward grinding away in 'dungeon' as he eyes playoff return (Broncos)
Ward knows if you're not the year's Super Bowl champion, there's only one place for you to be.

Denver Broncos Draft Rewind: Re-Evaluating The Will Parks Selection - Denver - Scout (Scout.com)
In a new series, Broncos Draft Rewind, Publisher Chad Jensen breaks down each of Denver's eight 2016 Draft picks almost one year later. Next up, safety Will Parks.

Rob Gronkowski crashed White House press briefing to offer Sean Spicer some help - SBNation.com (SBNation.com)
Classic Gronk.

Aaron Hernandez’s conviction will be voided after suicide - SBNation.com (SBNation.com)
Aaron Hernandez died an innocent man in the eyes of the law.