Don’t fret over schedule for Broncos

We have issues to address as we idle away the winter, waiting for pitchers and catchers to report next month and then the most important weekend of the annual sports calendar, the NFL draft in late April.

It has been brought to my attention the NFL schedule next year is unfair to the Denver Broncos. Boo-hoo. Get over it.

Here’s what the schedule means to the Broncos: virtually nothing other than possibly losing homefield advantage in the playoffs. And the Broncos, remember, had homefield advantage this season in one wild-card game despite their 8-8 regular season record.

The only thing you need to know about the schedule that really matters is that San Diego, Oakland and Kansas City have the same opponents in 14 of their 16 games.

The AFC West teams, as always, play each other home-and-home.

We also know the AFC West teams also play all of the teams from the AFC North: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

And we know the AFC West teams also play each of the teams from the NFC South: New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay.

The only difference in opponents determined by last season’s final standings comes in determining which teams the AFC West teams play from the AFC South and the AFC East.

Denver, by virtue of winning the West, plays against AFC South champ Houston and AFC East winner New England (yes, again). San Diego, second-place finisher in the West, plays second-place finishers Tennessee and the Jets, while third-place Oakland plays Jacksonville and Miami and fourth-place Kansas City plays Indy and Buffalo.

So, let’s not freak out about the schedule next season. Tough, yes. But 8-8 could very well win the AFC West again. The obvious task will be to win the divisional games. Do that and you’ve taken a huge step toward earning another home playoff game.

That’s Denver’s charge next season: Be better than the rest of the AFC West.

I’ve started paying attention to mock drafts, annually one of my favorite hobbies.

Out of five drafts, Denver, picking 25th barring a trade or trades, selects a defensive player with its first selection in four.

Two of those are defensive tackles, Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State and Jerel Worthy of Michigan State.

One is a defensive end, Nick Perry of Southern Cal.

One is a corner, Alfonzo Dennard of Nebraska.

And only one is an offensive player, tight end Dwayne Allen of Clemson.

Lock those names into your memory banks.

Another Bronco-related thought: Lots of talk has been about Denver adding a running back, someone who can help ease the load of Willis McGahee.

Quick now, who is the last big, mean, effective running back you remember grinding out yards in the middle of the field for the Broncos (other than McGahee)?

That’s right. It’s Peyton Hillis.

Hillis was unceremoniously traded from Denver for Brady Quinn in the summer of 2010. He was great with Cleveland, rushing for more than 1,100 yards that first season before struggling with injuries and the team’s coaching staff last year, gaining just more than 500 yards.

And he’s a free agent who has said he wants out of Cleveland.

The 250-pound Hillis almost makes too much sense — if the team could find the bucks to start negotiations.

Final thought: Fowler, Scutaro, Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Cuddyer, Helton, Hernandez, Blake and pitcher to be determined later.

That Rockies batting order may not be the Blake Street Bombers, but it’s as close as we’ve had in a couple of decades. That batting order will certainly provide a lot of punch and a lot of Coors Field enjoyment.

Question is, can the pitchers get anyone out?


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