BRONCOS

The Broncos schedule is out … now, what’s going to happen?

May 15, 2024, 8:12 PM

The Broncos schedule includes two prime-time games.

But their 2024 slate reveals that despite the promise of rookie Bo Nix, they are truly not a prime-time attraction.

Consider this: Six of the Broncos’ nine road games take place in the Eastern or Central Time Zones … which means could have taken place in the late-morning/early-afternoon Sunday window, which usually brings with it a smaller television audience than the later start times. Five of those six games have times already set for the early afternoon — 1 p.m. Eastern, noon Central, 11 a.m. Mountain time.

Then, consider how many start times of 2:05 p.m. MST the Broncos received. This means they are locked into a late window that is not slated for national television; that goes to the 2:25 kickoffs.

The Broncos play nine games in the late-afternoon window, including seven of eight at home. Six of those nine will kick off at 2:05 p.m. Mountain Time.

So, they’re not ready to be showcased frequently. That much is obvious. Will they be by the end of the season?

GAME-BY-GAME:

WEEK 1: BRONCOS AT SEAHAWKS
Sunday, Sept. 8 – 1:05 p.m. PDT – TV: CBS

This might not be the best situation for Bo Nix to make his debut. A raucous crowd — most of which will not have fond feelings for a former Oregon quarterback. A new, defensive-minded head coach in Seattle’s Mike Macdonald eager to make an imprint. Unless Bo Nix laps Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson in the quarterback competition, it might behoove the Broncos to let Nix sit and watch this one and take their chances on a more benign environment in the following weeks. But if Nix is the clear-cut top QB, you play the best player, full stop.

PREDICTION: Seahawks 24, Broncos 20

WEEK 2: STEELERS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Sept. 15 – 2:25 p.m. MDT – TV: CBS

The Broncos know Russell Wilson well. But it’s also possible that Pittsburgh’s pass rush — and the Broncos ability to control it — will have at least as much of an impact on the outcome as No. 3.

PREDICTION: Steelers 27, Broncos 16

WEEK 3: BRONCOS AT BUCCANEERS
Sunday, Sept. 22 – 1 p.m. EDT – TV: FOX

Why must this matchup always be early in the season? This is just the fifth time in which the Broncos have traveled to Tampa for a regular-season game, but it’s the fourth to take place in the first four weeks of the season, when Florida is brutally humid. Early-season games in Tampa bring a high risk of game-delaying thunderstorms, as the Broncos experienced during their most recent trek to the west coast of Florida eight years ago. The Broncos’ last September trip to the Sunshine State resulted in a 70-20 disaster last season in Miami. Their history in Tampa is better; they’ve won three of four games there all-time, with their only loss coming in the midst of their 0-4 start in 1999 following the retirement of John Elway. But the Broncos had a talent advantage in their last two road wins at Tampa Bay’s expense in 2004 and 2016. That likely won’t be the case this time around.

The outcome could come down to which version of the Bucs the Broncos see: the stumblebums that went 1-6 at midseason … or the power punchers that closed on a 5-1 sprint, dominated Green Bay at Lambeau Field, routed Philadelphia in the wild-card round and came within an eyelash of defeating Detroit at Ford Field six days later? If the Broncos see the latter, it will be a long, sweaty afternoon.

PREDICTION: Buccaneers 30, Broncos 24

WEEK 4: BRONCOS AT JETS
Sunday, Sept. 29 – 1 p.m. EDT – TV: CBS

Two years ago, Plan A was Aaron Rodgers — with Nathaniel Hackett as head coach. They’re finally together again, and Hackett’s career might be riding on what happens with the outspoken quarterback. Last year, Hackett and the revenge-minded Jets took the measure of the Broncos. This time, Denver gets payback.

PREDICTION: Broncos 23, Jets 17

WEEK 5: RAIDERS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Oct. 6 – 2:05 p.m. MDT – TV: FOX

The Raiders have never lost to Denver since moving to Las Vegas. While they’ve cycled through head coaches — four in four seasons since moving to Nevada — their dominance over Denver has been the constant. In giving Antonio Pierce the head-coaching reins, Las Vegas made the move for consistency that they should have made two years ago after interim coach Rich Bisaccia guided a battered organization to their only playoff appearance in the last seven seasons. But was this the right decision at the wrong time?

PREDICTION: Broncos 30, Raiders 20

WEEK 6: CHARGERS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Oct. 13 – 2:05 p.m. MDT – TV: CBS

Through all of the Broncos’ recent woes, they can always count on beating the Chargers at least once. It happens here, as the Broncos defense frustrates Justin Herbert — as it tends to do and the Broncos extend their winning streak to three games.

PREDICTION: Broncos 20, Chargers 16

WEEK 7: BRONCOS AT SAINTS
Thursday, Oct. 17 – 7:15 p.m. CDT – Streaming: Amazon Prime

It isn’t just Sean Payton’s return to New Orleans. It’s the return of a slew of ex-Saints coaches, officials and players. Perhaps none might have the emotional fire of newly hired Broncos assistant coach Pete Carmichael, who was dismissed by Saints head coach Dennis Allen — himself a former Broncos assistant — after last season.

PREDICTION: Broncos 24, Saints 17

WEEK 8: PANTHERS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Oct. 27 – 2:25 p.m. CDT – TV: CBS

A five-game winning streak? Why not? But it gets rough from here. This will be an interesting measuring stick if Bo Nix is the starter, as Carolina’s Bryce Young will try and put pieces back together after a rough rookie season.

PREDICTION: Broncos 33, Panthers 24

WEEK 9: BRONCOS AT RAVENS
Sunday, Nov. 3 – 1 p.m. EST – TV: CBS

Denver is 3-8 all-time in Baltimore and 1-7 on the road against the Ravens, which includes a wild-card loss on Dec. 31, 2000. Against the reigning MVP and a team with Derrick Henry in the same backfield, this is going to be a tough ask. Denver’s five-game winning streak ends with a thud.

PREDICTION: Ravens 31, Broncos 10

WEEK 10: BRONCOS AT CHIEFS
Sunday, Nov. 10 – 12 p.m. CST – TV: CBS

Denver stymied the Chiefs offense in both 2023 games and shut down Travis Kelce in the home duel that snapped Kansas City’s 16-game winning streak in the series. But the Broncos found tough sledding against Kansas City’s defense, which has questions after losing L’Jarius Sneed but should still generate plenty of pressure.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Broncos 13

WEEK 11: FALCONS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Nov. 17 – 2:05 p.m. MST – TV: FOX

Atlanta might be the most talented team in the NFC South, and despite the quarterback kerfuffle arising from drafting Michael Penix Jr. just weeks after signing Kirk Cousins, the Falcons appear to have perfect scheme-and-player alignment with Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson installing the Shanahan-McVay offense — a scheme Cousins has run brilliantly in recent years. Atlanta should be a far-better-coached team than it was last year and might have too much firepower for the Broncos to handle.

PREDICTION: Falcons 35, Broncos 27

WEEK 12: BRONCOS AT RAIDERS
Sunday, Nov. 24 – 1:05 p.m. PST – TV: CBS

After breaking one streak against the Raiders in October, they’ll break their 0-for-Las Vegas — more like “Loss” Vegas so far, amirite? — skein just before Thanksgiving. This also snaps a 3-game losing streak and nudges the Broncos back to .500.

PREDICTION: Broncos 26, Raiders 20

WEEK 13: BROWNS AT BRONCOS
Monday, Dec. 2 – 6:15 p.m. MST – TV: ESPN

The Broncos caught the Browns at their most injured state last year and capitalized. It might not be the same this time around.

PREDICTION: Browns 23, Broncos 17

WEEK 14: BYE

The Broncos get the dreaded late-season bye. This is a setback for younger players who would like to go back to their college haunts to catch a game of their alma mater; it’s conference-championship week, so few schools will be playing.

WEEK 15: COLTS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, Dec. 15 – 2:25 p.m. MST – TV: CBS

One of the true mystery games on the schedule, and it’s all about the young quarterbacks likely to be in play. Indianapolis’ Anthony Richardson displayed promise early last season before succumbing to an AC-joint injury in his throwing shoulder after just five weeks and four games played. His improvement from his first two starts to his final two as a rookie was palpable; if he picks up where he left off, both Richardson — and the Colts — should be dangerous. Indianapolis had one of the NFL’s shakiest defenses last year and this game could become a shootout.

PREDICTION: Broncos 34, Colts 28

WEEK 16: BRONCOS AT CHARGERS
Sunday, Dec. 22 – 1:05 p.m. PST – TV: FOX

These probably won’t be the same old Chargers now that Jim Harbaugh is the coach. The Broncos finally got their first win at SoFi Stadium last December after losing four-straight visits to the stadium since its 2020 opening, but if Harbaugh’s work yields results, SoFi might become a house of horrors once again.

PREDICTION: Chargers 30, Broncos 24

WEEK 17: BRONCOS AT BENGALS
Saturday, Dec. 28 or Sunday, Dec. 29 – Time and TV TBD

These teams have a recent habit of playing in December; they did so in 2021, 2018, 2015 and 2014. Cincinnati comes into the season having won 10-straight home games in December or January — including postseason — and the Bengals are 13-5 overall under Zac Taylor at home in December and January.

PREDICTION: Bengals 31, Broncos 17

WEEK 18: CHIEFS AT BRONCOS
Saturday, Dec. 28 or Sunday, Dec. 29 – Time and TV TBD

There’s a moderate chance that Kansas City won’t be playing for anything … but this could be more about the Broncos’ motivation than anything else. Since I have the Broncos at 7-9, I think that factor might be sadly lacking against a Kansas City side with seeding on the line.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 24, Broncos 16

FINAL RECORD: 7-10

But if this comes with Bo Nix playing well, this will be a good outcome to the year. Wins and losses matter, but for the long term, this season is about the progress of the first-round quarterback.

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