ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The NFL schedule makers weren't willing to wait for the Broncos' young offense to grow up.
Ready or not, the Broncos will need to mature quickly if they are to successfully navigate a daunting early portion of their 2020 schedule that was released Thursday evening.
“We’ll get it done,'' Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said in a Zoom interview with 9News on Thursday evening. "As you know we’ll work hard in camp. We’ll max out what the league allots us and we’ll get the guys ready.
“Yeah, we’ve got our work cut out for us but I don’t see any light spots in there anywhere.’’
A look at the schedule:
Broncos 2020 Preseason Schedule
1. Aug. 13-17 — 49ers at Empower Field — Channel 20
Defending NFC champs return for preseason opener.
2. Aug. 20-24 — Bears at Empower Field — Channel 20
Fangio's old team and current team are expected to hold joint practices during the week.
3. Aug. 27-30 — at LA Rams at SoFi Stadium — Channel 20
Broncos first look at the House That Kroenke Built.
4. Sept. 3 — at Arizona at State Farm Stadium — Channel 20
Traditional preseason finale between the two Mountain region teams.
Broncos 2020 Regular Season Schedule
1. Monday, Sept. 14 — Titans at Empower Field at Mile High — ESPN/Channel 20
NFL's leading rusher Derrick Henry and QB Ryan Tannehill made the NFL's Final Four last season.
2. Sunday, Sept. 20 — at Steelers at Heinz Field — CBS
A healthy Big Ben and JuJu will test Broncos' secondary. Said Fangio: "Pittsburgh had a good season on defense. Obviously, they missed Roethlisberger and they’ll have him back. I’m sure they’ll be back to being a playoff-type team.''
3. Sunday, Sept. 27 — Buccaneers at Empower Field at Mile High — FOX
Tom Brady and Gronk are the headliners for Tampa Bay, not New England. Fangio: "They had a pretty damn good offense last year with the receivers they have. Now they've got Brady. You add in there Gronkowski. They have the young tight end (O.J. Howard). They're pretty potent on offense. The only thing that slowed them down last year was a rash of turnovers. But they're obviously a team to be reckoned with in the NFC South.''
4. Thursday, Oct. 1 — at Jets at MetLife Stadium — NFL Network
Adam Gase onside kick even though he was up three TDs in 4th quarter three years ago may be replayed. Fangio: "We have the short week, go across country and play the Jets on that Thursday night. That usually doesn’t happen. That happened a couple times 10 or 11 years ago and the league supposedly wasn’t ever going to put somebody on a Thursday game travelling across country. But I guess since we’re Mountain time, they’re not considering that across the country. That would certainly be a struggle that week and then we have to go to the Patriots after the mini bye.’’
5. Sunday, Oct. 11 — at Patriots at Gillette Stadium — CBS
They are the Brady-less but not Belichick-less Pats.
6. Sunday, Oct. 18 — Dolphins at Empower Field at Mile High — CBS
Here's hoping rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa plays.
7. Sunday, Oct. 25 — Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High — CBS
Broncos rebuilt their offense to keep up with Mahomes and Co. This will be first test.
Let us be the first to say: It's a good time to have a bye. Fangio: "I think if you were going to chose where would you want the bye, you would want it somewhere in the middle so we're happy about that."
9. Sunday, Nov. 8 — at Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — FOX
Instead of London, the Broncos must contend with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in Atlanta.
10. Sunday, Nov. 15 — at Raiders at Allegiant Stadium — CBS
First Broncos business trip to Las Vegas. Fangio on if he has concerns about going to Vegas with a bunch of young men: "No. There's really not a lot of free time for the guys. We fly in there and bus to the hotel and there's usually a 2-hour window there before we have meetings. We might have another hour or so after meetings til bed-check so I don't anticipate any problems there."
11. Sunday, Nov. 22 — Chargers at Empower Field at Mile High — CBS
Chris Harris Jr. returns to Denver. Chargers may be starting rookie QB Justin Herbert by this game.
12. Sunday, Nov. 29 — Saints at Empower Field at Mile High — FOX
Always a treat to watch Hall of Famer Drew Brees in person. Brees and Michael Thomas lead Saints high-powered offense.
13. Sunday, Dec. 6 — at Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium — NBC
First Sunday night game in two years for Broncos. Never easy playing in Arrowhead in December.
14. Sunday, Dec. 13 — at Panthers at Bank of America Stadium — CBS
Broncos' first in-person look at Valor Christian-raised superstar Christian McCaffrey. Fangio: "He's a real good player, obviously. All-around, ball carrier and receiver extraordinaire out of the backfield. He can be detached as a receiver. They paid him a lot of money ($16 million per year) and he's deserving of it."
15. Dec. 19/20 ..... Bills at Empower Field at Mile High — TBD
Wyoming product Josh Allen quarterbacks the Bills.
16. Dec. 26/27 — at Chargers at SoFi Stadium — TBD
The difference is flying out for the game on Christmas Day -- or not.
17. Sunday, Jan. 3 — Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High — CBS
Will the new No. 7 AFC playoff spot be at stake?
"There are no easy ones,'' Fangio said. "I kept looking for the Colorado School of Mines but they didn't show up."
The Orediggers aren't easy, either. They went 12-1 in Division II last year while averaging 40.4 points per game.
The most important segment of any schedule is the part that's talked about the least when its released: Division games. The Broncos play two each against the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs, who are clearly the team to beat in the AFC West.
"At this point in time, they won the division the last four years,'' Fangio said. "Defending Super Bowl champs. They really haven't lost any players from last year's team. They've got most everybody coming back. They have a young quarterback (Patrick Mahomes II) that's just getting better and better. Their defense played well in the last half of last season. So yeah, they're the team to beat.
"But I see the Chargers, two years ago they were 12-4 and won a playoff game. Last year they lost a lot of close games. I see them getting back to the team we saw in '18.
"And the Raiders now are bearing the fruit of the extra draft picks they've had the last two years and two years of extra money to spend in free agency. So they're going to be much better, too.
"We think we're better. And it should be a helluva fight within the division.''
The biggest question about this year's schedule is, will they get all the games?
“I think we’re all under that assumption or goal,'' Fangio said. "That’s what we’re working towards. But as we know things can be fluid with this situation. I think everybody in the NFL is working towards everything starting on time and having a full season and then we’ll INA (improvise and adjust) it if we need to.’’
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports