1. An “easy” schedule? Let’s elaborate …
By 2012 winning percentages, the Broncos have the easiest schedule. That’s because the Broncos are in the division with the worst collective record in 2012 (26-38) — and, of course, aren’t boosted by playing themselves, so their division foes were a combined 13-35 — and the AFC West is partnered for inter-division play with two of the three other divisions that finished below .500 last year (AFC South, NFC East). In 2014, the Broncos are paired with the AFC East and NFC West, so don’t expect any “easy” headlines when next year’s slate is revealed.
2. Young QBs, coveted QBs.
Denver will have its hands full in Weeks 7 and 8, facing the top two picks in the 2012 draft in consecutive weeks — Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III. Luck and the Colts are also one of five opponents who are slated to start a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback against the Broncos; Denver also faces the Giants’ Eli Manning (2004) in Week 2, Philadelphia’s Michael Vick (2004) in Week 4 and Kansas City’s Alex Smith (2005) in Weeks 11 and 13.
3. Meet the new boss … but not for a while.
Since 2000, the Broncos are 8-5 in Week 1, but there’s a clear split in their fortunes: they’re 1-4 against a team with a new head coach and 7-1 against coaches returning from the previous year. Denver has six games against first-year coaches with their club: four are against the Chiefs (Andy Reid) and Chargers (Mike McCoy), but those head-to-head series don’t begin until Nov. 10. The only new coaches on the Broncos’ docket before the Week 9 bye are Chip Kelly (Philadelphia, Week 4) and Gus Bradley (Jacksonville, Week 6). Three weeks of regular-season NFL film of Kelly’s warp-speed offense to dissect is better than none.
4. Emotional returns, back-to-back.
The echoes of the cheers for Peyton Manning on his Oct. 20 return to Indianapolis will barely have stopped when Mike Shanahan arrives seven days later for his first game in Denver being dismissed following the 2008 season. Shanahan probably won’t receive the wild adulation that Manning seems likely to hear from the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd, but a chorus of boos for the Broncos’ all-time winningest coach seems quite unlikely — and would be in poor taste, to boot. The team has fundamentally changed since Shanahan’s tenure ended, and hard feelings are gone. Shanahan should expect a warm welcome — until kickoff, that is.
5. The AFC West will be decided from November onward.
Just one of the Broncos’ six AFC West games takes place before midseason (Week 3 vs.Oakland); the rest are in the second half of the season, including three in a four-week stretch from Nov. 10 to Dec. 1. The Chiefs also play three division games in that span — two against the Broncos. San Diego’s division schedule is the most imbalanced toward the final weeks; half of the Chargers’ AFC West games are in Weeks 15-17. The Broncos play the Chiefs twice and San Diego in those four weeks. If they win all three games, it’s unlikely anyone will catch them.
Tags: 2013 Schedule