If there is a dead period in the NFL, we are now in it. The off-season training activities are over, most free agents have been signed and training camps are a little more than a month away. The players, coaches and front office personnel are on vacation or should be. With all of that said, why not take a peek ahead to the schedule for the Denver Broncos.
Keep in mind it’s June, I reserve the right to change my mind after training camp and pre-season games.
September 9th Pittsburgh- It’s Peyton Manning’s regular season debut as a Bronco and there’s no way they lose this one. It won’t be easy as the Steelers will be ready coming off of the playoff loss to Denver, and Manning may be a tad rusty. The Broncos score a late touchdown to put the game away, 27-17. (1-0).
September 17th at Atlanta- This could be a tricky game for Denver but they keep it close, and find a way to win a big road game. Matt Prater kicks a field goal at the buzzer, 24-21. (2-0).
September 23rd Houston- Another tough test versus a playoff team from 2011 but Manning is getting better every week and throws for 4 touchdowns in a 31-23 win over the Texans. (3-0).
September 30th Oakland- The Raiders have won 4 straight games versus the Broncos at Mile High, not this year. In their best effort of the season to date, the Broncos blow-out the silver and black. 35-10. (4-0).
October 7th at New England- It’s the renewal of the Manning versus Brady rivalry and it does not disappoint. The Broncos play well but drop their first game of the season. 27-23, Patriots. (4-1).
October 15th at San Diego- In a big early division game, the Broncos take firm control of the AFC West with a win over the Chargers. Manning outduels Rivers and the Denver defense makes a big play in the final minute to pull it out. 27-21. (5-1).
October 28th New Orleans- Back when the schedule came out, I had this as a loss but not anymore. The Saints are a mess and anyone who thinks not having their head coach won’t matter is crazy. The Saints score some points at Mile High but they can’t keep up with Manning who is hitting his stride. 34-24. (6-1).
November 4th at Cincinnati- The Bengals are the hot pick, the up and coming team but they have to show it to me one more year before I start believing. In a tough road game, the Broncos run for 170 yards in a 23-19 win. (7-1).
November 11th at Carolina- There’s a big part of me that wants to put this down as a loss for Denver but they love John Fox, and they will want to win this one for him. It won’t be easy but Manning throws a touchdown pass to Eric Decker with 24 seconds left to win 28-27. (8-1).
November 18th San Diego- The Broncos stub their toe here and drop one to the Chargers. Rivers has a big day and Manning is off just enough to allow San Diego to get out of Denver with a 24-20 win. (8-2).
November 25th at Kansas City- Bronco nation begins to panic as Denver loses their second straight to a division foe. In a hard-fought, cold weather game, the Chiefs do just enough to beat Denver 17-16. (8-3).
December 2nd Tampa Bay- An angry bunch of Broncos take it to Tampa Bay and Manning is wearing a baseball hat by the fourth quarter. The Broncos win big, 38-14. (9-3).
December 6th at Oakland- Denver is in playoff mode at this point and the Raiders are playing for a draft pick, Oakland hangs around early but the Broncos roll in the second half. 35-17. (10-3).
December 16th at Baltimore- In a potential playoff preview, the Broncos fall just short to Ray Lewis and the Ravens. Baltimore wins in overtime, 23-20. (10-4).
December 23rd Cleveland- The Browns and their AARP rookie quarterback are no match for an angry Manning who torches them for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns. 42-14. (11-4).
December 30th Kansas City- Denver still remembers the 1 point loss in Kansas City and jumps out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. They coast from there and wrap up the AFC West Title with a 37-17 pummeling of the Chiefs. (12-4).
That’s the way I see it now but injuries, both to the Broncos and other teams, can change my outlook. For now, though, enjoy the 12-4 season.