Jussel: Schedule for Broncos has a prime-time feel

If you’ve had a chance to check out the Denver Broncos schedule for the upcoming season, you’ll certainly have noticed that this team will be, if nothing else, well known across the country by the time the season is half over.

Peyton Manning and his teammates open on a Thursday night in front of God and everyone else at home in a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens. Don’t make any other plans.

Peyton then goes to New York City to battle brother Eli and the Giants, then returns home for a Monday night home game against Oakland.

Three weeks, two prime-time games sandwiched around one in the Big Apple.

Other games of more than casual interest early in the season include a matchup against the Cowboys in Dallas on Oct. 6 and another prime-time affair at Indianapolis against Manning’s former team, the Colts. Think Peyton might be a bit stoked for that one?

All of those matchups will come before the Broncos’ bye week, which comes halfway through the season in Week 9.

After the bye week, Denver’s highlight will be another prime-time Sunday night game against the Patriots in New England.

Oh yes, in the second half of the season, the Broncos will become much more familiar with their AFC West cousins, playing the Chargers and Chiefs twice and the Raiders again.

The Chargers game in Denver on Dec. 12 is yet another prime-time affair, but word of warning: This one is an NFL Network Thursday night contest that forces Bronco fans who don’t have access to that network into neighborhood sports bars — one of those things that can sneak up on you and leave you cursing as you drive pell-mell to the nearest cable or satellite hookup in the certainly already-packed neighborhood bar closest to you.

As for the schedule itself, it’s obviously tough, splashed with first-place teams from a variety of divisions and NFC East nonconference foes. The biggest breaks would seem to be the home-and-home affairs with the AFC West teams, notoriously weak last season.

If the status remains quo, meaning Manning stays upright through the season, the Broncos would be obvious favorites in 10 games, with six a tossup.

The Broncos should beat Baltimore (welcome back Elvis), Oakland, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Washington, Kansas City, Tennessee and San Diego in that order at home. That makes eight wins.

They should also be road favorites at San Diego, which is in a rebuilding mode under new coach and former Bronco offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and at Oakland, which is simply trying to build any semblance of a team under former Bronco defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. That would make 10 wins.

Those that would appear to be tossups at this point: at New York against the Giants, at Dallas, at Indy, at New England, at always-tough Kansas City in December, and at Houston against Gary Kubiak’s Texans.

Win half of those games and it’s another 13-3 season, another bye in the first round of the playoffs and maybe yet another home playoff game against — guess who? — yes, Joe Flacco and his Ravens.


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