Colorado Europe's Michael Lavery looks ahead to the Denver Broncos 2020 season.
Despite the fact many of us are still holding our breath in the hopes of there actually being a football season – the NFL world continues to progress under the assumption that we are kicking off come September time. This has been evident all throughout the off-season as the league issued schedules, hosted a combine and held its first ever Virtual Draft.
It’s the first week of camp and a lot of teams are slowly returning to facilities, masked up and sanitised to within an inch of their lives and we as football fans continue to cling to whatever shred of hope and excitement we have left.
With that being said, today I’m going on somewhat of a deep dive. I’ll be looking at each game the Broncos have this season, its significance and their history against said team and also whether or not I foresee any rough patches or perhaps good spells for Denver this season. As we all know by now, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to suspend all preseason games and go head first into the season kicking off in week one. When this news broke many twitter detectives, myself included, stated how the lack of a preseason will have an adverse on many teams who will not have had time to “iron out the kinks”. Teams with new Head Coaches or Co-ordinators will have less time to implement schemes or truly rubber stamp their style of play into a team – this is the case in Denver as Pat Shurmur joins the coaching staff as the offensive co-ordinator.
Those with an optimistic head on their shoulders won’t worry too much about the lessened time the Broncos have to insert new schemes and will instead choose to trust in Drew Lock and his ability to adapt, improvise and overcome adversity quickly.
Below is my week-by-week breakdown of the Broncos 2020 schedule.
Opponent: Tennessee Titans Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (W) Denver 16-0 Tennessee
The Broncos open their season at home against the Titans on the late edition of Monday Night Football in a key opening matchup for both teams. For us watching in Europe we are in for a particularly late night as this match doesn’t kick off until 03:10am – get the coffee (or, beer) in lads! The beginning of Drew Lock’s campaign as a full time Broncos starter begins here and the hopes and aspirations of an entire season will hang in the balance. A win will calm the nerves and relax everyone but a default will have us on our hands and knees praying it was just a blip in the road. You wouldn’t want any less drama for week one!
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers Location: Heinz Field Last meeting: (W) Denver 24 – 17 Pittsburgh
A tricky trip in week two as the Broncos visit the Steelers. Pittsburgh spent the majority of last season without their starting Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger but were carried by elite defensive play and just narrowly missed out on the playoffs. The Broncos have had continued success against the Steelers over the years and lead the all-time head to head series 20-11-1 and they will hope the fortunes of years past favours them in the unusual settings of the empty stadiums we will see in 2020.
Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: Denver 27 – 7 Tampa
The Broncos welcome an old foe to Mile High Stadium in week three as Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay Bucs come to town. Brady has history in Denver and the absence of fans is probably a good thing for him on this trip as it may not have been the most welcoming environment had the bleachers been full. We only see this fixture once every four years, and with the mixture of talent, potential and experience between these two rosters, this could be a great game!
Opponent: New York Jets Location: MetLife Stadium Last meeting: (L) Denver 16 – 34 New York
Denver heads east to the big apple in this Thursday Night Football clash and are presented with a good opportunity to get a win against a Jets team who, as of this point in the preseason are looking like a top 5 draft pick next year already. This is the kind of game where fans would love to see a Drew Lock breakout performance and really hammer home a result that gets people’s attention.
Opponent: New England Patriots Location: Gillette Stadium Last meeting: (L) Denver 16 – 41 New England
For the first time in twenty years the Broncos will face the Patriots without Tom Brady as their starter. Instead it will be their opponent from Superbowl 50, Cam Newton. In the second of a three game span, which sees Denver face three quarters of the AFC East in as many weeks, the Broncos will want to be picking up a win here as they look to build some momentum as the season leaves its infancy. The Broncos have bullied Cam Newton before and I can guarantee Von Miller is licking his lips at the thought of it again.
Opponent: Miami Dolphins Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (L) Denver 9 – 35 Miami
Last season the Dolphins “tanked for Tua” – and it worked. They got their guy but it’s unlikely we see him this season as they look to ease him in gently and protect him further injury. This means the Dolphins will likely be led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, and if so another superb opportunity arises for Denver to get another W in the left column. I can see this game being a particularly good game defensively for the Broncos as they will either face the fragile rookie QB or the aging veteran who is known to give the ball up easily.
Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (L) Denver 3 – 23 Kansas City
And so comes the first encounter with the division rival, Superbowl champion Chiefs. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have seen that the Chiefs signed Patrick Mahomes to a ten year extension worth half a billion dollars, keeping him in KC for the next twelve years. This will undoubtedly be a tough match for the Broncos who will be looking to prove they are up to the challenge of competing for the next decade.
Opponent: N/A Location: N/A Last Meeting: N/A
Coming at just the right time in the season, about half way. If the Broncos fail to get a result they so desire against the Chiefs this will be the perfect time to recuperate.
Opponent: Atlanta Falcons Location: Mercedes Benz Stadium Last meeting: (L) Denver 16 – 23 Atlanta
Another fixture that only happens once every four years. The Falcons are in one of the tougher divisions in football, the NFC South and it is likely that they will experience a burnout or a purple patch at some stage of the year. Fans of Denver will hope this happens in week nine. The Falcons high powered offence going against the Broncos stout defense provides all the ingredients for a superb midseason matchup. I personally think this will be a difficult game for the Broncos to come out on top of but if they manage to build up momentum earlier in the year that could be the swinging factor in this fixture.
Opponent: Las Vegas Raiders Location: Allegiance Stadium Last meeting: (W) Denver 16 – 15 Oakland
The Broncos will be getting their first taste of the new Las Vegas Raiders experience as they travel to the desert to take on the Raiders. It’s these sort of divisional matchups that are so crucial in the story of a season. When it comes to crunching the playoff numbers, its these games that matter and the ones you want to avoid losing because if a couple of these losses stack up, you immediately find yourself a long way down the pecking order. The story of the Broncos 2020 season will be told in games like this.
Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (W) Denver 23 – 20 Los Angeles
Another crucial divisional match up for Denver as the season moves on. The Chargers will be without long time veteran Quarterback Phil Rivers for the first time since 2004. A change in personnel but the Broncos will know better than to underestimate whoever lines up under centre against them in week eleven. These are the games where Drew Lock will be able to solidify himself as a clutch, franchise QB who is worthy of holding down his own in the NFL. Playoff implications run rife through weeks ten and eleven for Denver.
Opponent: New Orleans Saints Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (W) Denver 25 – 23 New Orleans
The return of long time servant Emmanuel Sanders as he prepares to face off against the Broncos for the first time leaving them in the midst of last season. He arrives with a Saints team who have the biggest chip on their shoulder of any team in the NFL (In my opinion). They’ve had devastating ends to the last three seasons at the divisional round of the playoffs and they will be on a mission to get back to the Superbowl before Drew Brees’ window finally closes. This will be tough for the Saints at altitude and the Broncos defense will relish in the fact that Brees has been losing the deep ball ability over the last season or two. If they can manage to keep the game in front of them I think they’ll come away with a win here.
Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs Location: Arrowhead Stadium Last meeting: (See Above)
The return fixture for the divisional matchup against the Chiefs. Just as important as the first one, Denver will hope to have learned a thing or two from the first game and either replicate their performance or adjust where necessary and adapt to compete with the Chiefs.
Opponent: Carolina Panthers Location: Bank of America Stadium Last meeting: (W) Denver 21 - 20 Carolina
The Broncos continue their season with a road trip to the Carolina’s as they face off against the Panthers for the first time in four years, completing the quadrant of NFC South teams they will face in 2020. With a completely rebuilt defense, this will be a good opportunity for the Broncos to spread their legs so to speak and really try to exploit the weaknesses of this new Carolina unit. They will have to defend against Christian McCaffrey which is no mean feat but the Broncos defence will be up for the challenge, without question.
Opponent: Buffalo Bills Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High Last meeting: (L) Denver 3 – 20 Buffalo
I personally think this will be one of the more crucial games of both these teams’ seasons. Many expect the Bills to claim the AFC East crown but with the addition of Cam Newton to the Patriots I don’t think it’s a sure thing. This game could have serious playoff implications and become season defining. The Bills defense was strong last season and clutch for them down the stretch as they made their playoff push. The Broncos will be hoping that their offense has found enough rhythm and explosiveness to be able to come out on top in a game like this.
Opponent: Los Angeles Chargers Location: So-Fi Stadium Last meeting: (See Above)
The Broncos will play their debut performance in the brand new SO-Fi Stadium on the penultimate week of the season. With no much else to be said about facing the chargers other than it being must win, the Broncos will want to start their So-Fi experience off properly. With two division games to finish off the season it is crucial that Denver secure a result.
Opponent: Las Vegas Raiders Location: Sports Authority Field @ Mile High. Last meeting: (See Above)
The final regular season game takes place against the Raiders at Mile High. Broncos’ fans worldwide will hope the team has already secured their playoff spot and that this isn’t a do or die game where the winner goes to the post season and the loser goes to couch. Nevertheless, the season is set to end in dramatic fashion with a division showdown.
There are definitely stretches of this schedule which will play difficultly for the Broncos but equally there are weeks at a time where stacking multiple wins looks possible. It will all come down to the team chemistry and their ability to work as a unit even with a shortened – non-existent – preseason. The positioning of divisional matches is something which jumped out at me and will be key to defining if the Broncos have a successful season or not.