ENGLEWOOD – If last year’s Denver Broncos learned anything about schedules, it’s not who you play, or where you play.
It’s how you play.
The NFL and the Broncos released their full, 2018 schedule Thursday evening and first glance, it appears decidedly easier than the 2017 regular-season list of 16 games.
Upon the release last year, the Broncos had the toughest schedule in the NFL. This year’s schedule features only three opponents who are coming off playoff seasons: Pittsburgh, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams. So much easier, on paper, this year.
“I don’t buy that,’’ said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. “It’s an NFL schedule. Every year teams change. Our schedule last year being the top of the league that was based on the previous year. But every tea changes year-round so I’m not concerned about the schedule ratings.’’
A look at the Broncos’ 2018 preseason and regular-season schedule:
Sat, Aug. 11 – Minnesota – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 7:05 p.m. (9NEWS/KTVD-20)
Sat, Aug. 18 – Chicago – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 7:05 p.m. (9NEWS/KTVD-20)
Fri, Aug. 24 -- @Washington – FedExField – 5:30 p.m. (9NEWS/KTVD-20)
Thurs, Aug. 30 - @Arizona – University of Phoenix Stadium – 7 p.m. (9NEWS/KTVD-20)
Sun, Sept. 9 – Seattle – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:25 p.m. (Fox)
Sun, Sept. 16 – Oakland – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun, Sept. 23 - @Baltimore – M&T Bank Stadium – 11 a.m. (CBS)
Mon, Oct. 1 – Kansas City – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 6:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun, Oct. 7 - @NY Jets – Metlife Stadium – 11 a.m. (CBS)
Sun, Oct. 14 – LA Rams – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:05 p.m. (Fox)
Thurs, Oct. 18 - @Arizona – University of Phoenix Stadium – 5:20 p.m. (Fox)
Sun, Oct. 28 - @Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium – 11 a.m. (CBS)
Sun, Nov. 4 – Houston – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:05 p.m. (CBS)
WEEK 10 BYE
Sun, Nov. 18 -- @LA Chargers – StubHub Center – 2:05 p.m. (CBS)
Sun, Nov. 25 – Pittsburgh – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun, Dec. 2 -- @Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium – 11 a.m. (CBS)
Sun, Dec. 9 -- @San Francisco – Levi’s Stadium – 2:05 p.m. (CBS)
Sat, Dec. 15 – Cleveland – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – TBD (NFL Network)
Mon, Dec. 24 - @Oakland – Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – 6:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun, Dec.30 – LA Chargers – Sports Authority Field at Mile High – 2:25 p.m. (CBS)
Beware the so-called weak opponent. That rough, tough schedule the Broncos thought they had? It didn’t turn out that way, at least not in opponent records. The New York Giants were not 11-5. That was their record in 2016. They finished 3-13 in 2017. They were only 0-5 when they entered hopefully-soon-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High in week 6.
They beat the Broncos, anyway.
The AFC West – so tough in 2016 – wasn’t nearly as good in 2017. The Broncos still got swept by the Kansas City Chiefs and settled for splits against the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.
Some highlights of the Broncos’ new schedule:
– One benefit to coming off a 5-11 season: Fewer night games. The Broncos have just three primetime games on their schedule – down from a maximum of five primetime games the team had each of the previous six seasons.
– For the second consecutive year, the Broncos open with back-to-back games at home (the Seahawks and Raiders) and play three of their first four at Mile High. Last year, the Broncos started 2-0 and 3-1, but then fell apart, losing eight in a row.
– The bye week is much later this season as it comes in the more favorable week 10. Last year, the bye came in week 5. The Broncos were 3-1 going in, and lost eight in a row coming out so it can be safely stated last year’s bye week came at a bad time.
“If you’re playing good football, you don’t want to stop playing,’’ Joseph said. “Last year we were 3-1 and playing good football and fairly healthy and we had our early bye. And sometimes it takes your edge away. It’s too early to relax. So having it at the midway point is a good thing.’’*The Broncos host Aqib Talib, Wade Phillips and the L.A. Rams in week 6.
– Football people would never say a schedule that includes all members of the AFC North and NFC West as easy. The Broncos play at Baltimore in week 3, then go back-to-back against the Steelers at home and Bengals on the road in weeks 12 and 13.
Joseph previously coached in the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s a black-and-blue division,’’ Joseph said. “All four teams are physical, all four teams are big.’’The Broncos host DeShaun Watson, J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans on Nov. 4.
– It's a Wonderful Life, might take a ratings dip. The Broncos are playing on Christmas Eve and Monday night at Oakland. It's the first of two, back-to-back AFC West games to finish the season. The Broncos conclude their regular-season with a home game against the Chargers.
– The Broncos open the season at home against Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. Let's just not call it a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII. Case Keenum's first task for the Broncos may be to play Wilson on the scout team.
"That's a football team that's been dominant for a long time,'' Joseph said. "Their quarterback is a special player. They've been on defense for the last seven or eight years. It should be a tough, physical game week 1 at Mile High.''