DENVER – Three months ago, we knew who the Broncos would play. Tuesday, they announced when they would play.
All that’s left is the “if.”
But “if” the NFL and its players association can resolve their labor impasse by mid-August, there should be no issues with getting in the 16-game regular-season schedule, which for the Broncos will begin with a Monday Night Football duel with the Oakland Raiders at Invesco Field.
That not only extends the Broncos’ league-best ongoing streak of seasons with at least one MNF game to 20, but gives them a Week 1 home game for the first time in seven years, since a Sunday night opener against Kansas City in 2004. It also provides an early chance for the Broncos to seek payback for their worst home loss in 44 years, a 59-14 defeat last Oct. 24 that was the beginning of Josh McDaniels’s end as Broncos head coach.
It also gives new head coach John Fox an early chance to go against the team whose defense he coordinated in 1994 and 1995; Fox went 1-1 as Panthers head coach against the Raiders. The game will also be Hue Jackson’s first as Raiders head coach.
Remarkably for a team coming off a 4-12 season, the Broncos will make multiple prime-time appearances, because the NFL Network will air their home game against the New York Jets on Nov. 17. This will be the Broncos’ first game on the NFL’s in-house channel since the 26-6 Thanksgiving night win over the New York Giants that is perhaps best remembered for a sideline microphone catching a “colorful metaphor” that Josh McDaniels lobbed at his offensive linemen.
The schedule follows below:
Monday, Sep. 12: OAKLAND, 8:15 p.m. MDT (ESPN)
Sunday, Sep. 18: CINCINNATI, 2:15 p.m. MDT (CBS)
Sunday, Sep. 25: at Tennessee, 11 a.m. MDT (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 2: at Green Bay, 2:15 p.m. MDT (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 9: SAN DIEGO, 2:15 p.m. MDT (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 16: BYE
Sunday, Oct. 23: at Miami, 11 a.m. MDT (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 30: DETROIT, 2:05 p.m. MDT (Fox)
Sunday, Nov. 6: at Oakland, 2:05 p.m. MST (Fox)
Sunday, Nov. 13: at Kansas City, 11 a.m. MST (CBS)
Thursday, Nov. 17: N.Y. JETS, 6:20 p.m. MST (NFL Network)
Sunday, Nov. 27: at San Diego, 2:15 p.m. MST (CBS) *
Sunday, Dec. 4: at Minnesota, 2:05 p.m. MST (CBS) *
Sunday, Dec. 11: CHICAGO, 2:05 p.m. MST (Fox) *
Sunday, Dec. 18: NEW ENGLAND, 2:15 p.m. MST (CBS) *
Saturday, Dec. 24: at Buffalo, 11 a.m. MST (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 1: KANSAS CITY, 2:15 p.m. MST (CBS) *
* — time and network subject to change
Perhaps the most demanding stretch of the schedule comes from Nov. 6-Dec. 18. In that span, the Broncos play four road games in five weeks, and five teams with winning records. Only one of the teams they play in that stretch finished below .500 last year (Minnesota, Dec. 4).
The Broncos close with Kansas City at home for the second time in the last three years.
The other date to be circled in Dec. 11, when the Chicago Bears visit Invesco Field for the first time since 2003. Barring injury, it will be Jay Cutler’s first regular-season game against the Broncos since the April 2, 2009 trade that sent him to the Bears and Kyle Orton to the Broncos.
That game is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. MST, but could be flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot if one or both of the teams is in the playoff race.