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2014 Schedule Filled with Storylines

Posted Apr 23, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason gives his take, along with plenty of key notes, on the Broncos' 2014 schedule.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Since December, we've known the who, what and where of the Broncos' schedule. Wednesday, we learned the when, leaving the "why" and "how" for the games themselves.

-- Although the regular season does not begin with the longest road trip of the year, the three-game November swing to New England, Oakland and St. Louis represents the Broncos' first run of three consecutive away games since 2010, and just the second since Weeks 14-16 of the 1997 season. Stretches like this were typical during the American Football League days; in 10 AFL seasons, the Broncos played three consecutive road games six times, and had a four-game season-opening road trip to start the 1961 campaign. During these three trips, the Broncos will travel 6,972 miles round-trip -- more than half of which will come flying to and from New England. The Broncos hope for better results than the previous long road trips bore; in those 15 excursions of three or more weeks, the Broncos finished above .500 just twice, going 2-1 in 1960 and 1962.

-- If you had "Indianapolis, Sunday night" in your guess-the-schedule pool, congratulations. This will be the Broncos' third consecutive regular-season opener on NBC and fourth consecutive prime-time Week 1 game at home, dating back to 2011, when Denver opened by hosting the Raiders on Monday Night Football. The Broncos hope to reverse the Colts' recent mastery in the series; last year's 39-33 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium extended their winning streak in the series to six, including the postseason. Indianapolis has also won seven of the last eight and nine of the last 11 in the series. But the Broncos have history on their side; they are 25-8-1 in season-opening home games, including 5-1 this century.

-- Kansas City makes a rare early-season visit to Denver in Week 2. The Chiefs have not played at Denver in September since Week 2 of the 2006 season, when the Broncos eked out a 9-6 overtime in a game where placekickers accounted for all of the points. Regardless of venue, the teams had played nine consecutive games in November, December or January since the Chiefs' 33-19 win over Denver at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 28, 2008. The Broncos have won four consecutive games against the Chiefs; it is their longest winning streak in the series since 1988-90.

-- The Week 3 trip to Seattle will mark the Broncos' first regular-season trip to CenturyLink Field since 2002, when it was known as Seahawks Stadium and in its inaugural season. This also marks the first time in Broncos history that they have had a rematch with a Super Bowl opponent from the previous year. It will also be the Broncos' 24th game against a reigning world champion; the Broncos are 13-10 in the previous games, including 5-7 on the road. This is also the third consecutive game against a 2013 playoff qualifier; more than half of the Broncos' games (nine of 16) are against teams who were in the 2013 postseason.

-- The Week 4 bye is not what teams generally hope to draw. However, including training camp, it comes after nine weeks of work dating back to the start of training camp, so it's not quite as off-balance with the entire season as it would appear on the surface. It's the Broncos' earliest bye since a Week 4 bye in 2006; they followed that with a 13-3 win over Baltimore. The bye falls on Sept. 28, and marks the Broncos' first September bye since 1993, the "double-bye" season in which the NFL experimented with an 18-week regular season.

-- In Week 5, the Broncos host Arizona. It's the Cardinals' first regular-season trip to Denver since Week 17 of the 2002 season, when Jake Plummer started his final game for Arizona before jumping to the Broncos two and a half months later.

-- The Broncos' third trip to MetLife Stadium -- but first against the New York Jets -- comes in Week 6. Denver is 1-1 against the Jets since Rex Ryan became their head coach in 2009.

-- The 49ers make their first regular-season trip to Denver since New Year's Eve, 2006, a 26-23 Broncos loss that was rendered meaningless after cornerback Darrent Williams was mortally wounded by gunshots several hours later. The Broncos' next true regular-season road game against the 49ers won't come until 2018; the 49ers' 2010 home game in the series was played in London. Denver has not played at San Francisco since 2002. This will also mark Manning's second game against one of the finalists for his services; the Broncos beat Tennessee 51-28 lost year.

-- For the second consecutive year, the Broncos have a quick turnaround before facing the Chargers on a Thursday night. Last year's Week 15 loss snapped the Broncos' four-game winning streak in games broadcast on NFL Network (this year's Thursday game will also air on CBS). Denver is 7-10 on Thursdays, including Thanksgiving games. The Broncos hope to reverse Philip Rivers' regular-season hex over them in the Mile High City; he's 6-2 against the Broncos as a starter in Denver, but lost the one game that mattered most in the divisional round on Jan. 12.

-- It comes as no surprise that the Week 9 trip to New England is a day game; since 2009, the Manning/Brady duels have alternated between prime-time and afternoon kickoffs (although the 2011 game was flexed out of prime time after the Colts collapsed following Manning's absence due to neck surgeries). But the other item worth noting is that it closes a first half of the season that is arguably the most brutal in recent NFL history. The Broncos do not face a team with a losing record in 2013 during their first eight games, and their opponents were a combined 86-42 -- an average record of 10.75 wins and 5.25 losses.

-- For the first time since 2010, neither game against the Raiders is scheduled for prime time. Denver has won nine of its last 11 games, five of its last six and three straight in Oakland, but the Broncos are still just 23-31 in road games against the Raiders. Prior to 2003, the Raiders were 29-14 at home against Denver.

-- In Week 11, the Broncos will head to St. Louis looking for their first win in the city. The Rams won the teams' duels in 2000 and 2006 -- both of which opened the regular season -- and the Broncos played the St. Louis Cardinals to a 17-all draw in 1973. Including the Rams' years in Southern California, the Broncos have lost four consecutive road games to the Rams; their last win came on Dec. 12, 1982 at Anaheim Stadium.

-- For a third consecutive year, the Broncos will travel to Kansas City on Thanksgiving weekend. This will mark the 10th time in the last 11 seasons that the clubs have played at Arrowhead Stadium in November or December; the Broncos are 5-4 in the previous games, including wins in five of the last six late-season clashes there. The Broncos will also hunt for their fourth consecutive win at Kansas City; success would give them their longest winning streak there since 1976-79.

-- The Bills' Week 14 trip to Denver is their first since defeating the Broncos 30-23 in Mike Shanahan's final game as head coach on Dec. 21, 2008. The Broncos have won five of the last seven games in the series, but have not defeated the Bills since Sept. 9, 2007, when a last-second Jason Elam field goal allowed Denver to eke out a 15-14 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The game lives on in Broncos lore for the "Toro! Toro! Toro!" call from the sideline that cued the field-goal team to quickly replace the offense as the clock ran toward the final gun. Mike Leach fired the snap just before the clock hit zero, and Elam had the first of four walk-off game-winners that season.

-- A December trip to San Diego would seem to be welcome news for a cold-weather team, but the weather -- and results -- have not always been kind to the Broncos in their late-season trips there. The Broncos have lost three consecutive December games at San Diego (2006-08) and seven of the last eight since a 17-14 win there in the 1991 regular-season finale. Two of the December games in the last decade were played in wind and rain -- but one represents the Broncos' only December win at Qualcomm Stadium in the last two decades, a 23-7 win on Dec. 31, 2005. The Broncos are looking for their fourth consecutive win at Qualcomm Stadium; if they get it, they would have their longest win streak at San Diego since 1997-2000.

-- The only Monday night game of the season wraps up ESPN's Monday night coverage for 2014, in Week 16. The Broncos are 3-2 all-time against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, but one of the two losses came in prime time, a 2004 game on Monday night that marked the Bengals' first MNF home game in 15 years. In that emotionally charged environment, the Bengals upset the Broncos, 23-10. Monday games are no longer a Cincinnati novelty; the Bengals have hosted four such games in the last seven seasons, going 2-2.

-- Denver closes with a home game against the Raiders. It marks the second consecutive year the rivals have closed against each other; prior to 2013, their last season-ending duel was in 1995. (They were scheduled to meet in the regular-season finale in 2001, but the shifting of Week 2 to January following the 9/11 attacks changed the slate.) The game also caps a second half that appears significantly more benign than the first half; Denver's eight opponents from Week 10 onward were a combined 60-68 last year.

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