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The five most-intriguing games on the Broncos' 2017 schedule

Posted Apr 20, 2017

Check out the need-to-know information, the best storylines and the players to watch.

5. At Miami — Sunday, Dec. 3, 1 p.m. ET

Head Coach Vance Joseph will return to the city in which he spent a year as defensive coordinator, and the Broncos will visit the team that kept them out of the playoffs in 2016. The Dolphins’ running game pushed them to the playoffs in 2016, and behind former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, they’ll be looking to do the same this season.

Key storyline: How has Vance Joseph performed in his first season as head coach? Though the Broncos will still have four games left after their contest in Miami, his return to the Floridian coast will serve as a natural break in which his first season can be evaluated. Are the Broncos fighting for the No. 1 seed or are they struggling to stay in contention for the playoffs?

Player to watch: Jay Ajayi broke onto the scene in 2016 due to his tendency for huge outputs in games. While his production was inconsistent over the course of the season, he rushed for over 200 yards on three different occasions. That sort of potential makes him a threat to the Broncos.

4. At Oakland — Sunday, Nov. 26, 1:25 p.m. PT

This game will mark the Broncos’ first trip to the Black Hole since the NFL owners approved the franchise’s relocation to Las Vegas. More relevant to the Broncos’ chances of winning will be containing the Raiders’ young core of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack.

Key storyline: What will the atmosphere be like at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum after the relocation decision? Will Raiders fans rally together for one or two final seasons in Oakland or will they protest the move and diminish the Raiders’ home-field advantage? In a tough environment in which to play, a calmer crowd could give the Broncos an edge.

Player to watch: Derek Carr. How will the fourth-year quarterback respond after he broke his leg against the Colts right before the playoffs? Will he pick up where he left off on his Pro Bowl season in which he would’ve blown past 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, or will he struggle to guide the Raiders to another playoff bid.

3. Kansas City — Sunday, Dec. 31, 2:05 p.m. MT

Last year with the season on the line, the Chiefs blew out the Broncos, 33-10, at Arrowhead Stadium. This season could very well come down to a date with the Chiefs, as well. This New Year’s Eve contest could be snowy, will likely be cold and should have heavy playoff implications.

Key storyline: Can the Broncos contain Tyreek Hill? In 2016, he created a number of impact plays for the Chiefs, including an 86-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against the Broncos in October and a 70-yard jet sweep for a touchdown in Kansas City.

Player to watch: In a division flush with talented pass-rushers, outside linebacker Justin Houston stands out with 11.5 sacks in 10 career games against the Broncos. The Broncos' offseason offensive line overhaul will be determined a success or failure based on the unit's performance against elite pass rushers, and Houston certainly fits that bill.

2. Dallas — Sunday, Sept. 17, 2:25 p.m. MT

The NFC’s No. 1 seed from a year ago will certainly have revenge on its mind in 2017 after it fell short in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers. In this high-profile matchup against Dallas, the Broncos will face a potent offense and a rapidly improving defense.

Key storyline: Is the Broncos’ run defense fixed? It will be tested early and often against Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott. The Cowboys' quarterback was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 after he threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions.

Player to watch: Elliot and Prescott get all the attention, but tight end Jason Witten will also pose a threat down the middle for the Cowboys’ offense. The 16-year veteran had 69 receptions and three touchdowns in 2016. 

1. New England — Sunday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. MT

The road to the AFC Championship always begins and ends with New England. The Broncos will host the Patriots for the third-straight regular season, and their matchup with the Super Bowl LI champions will be the fourth-consecutive contest between the two at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. After a three-game road trip that traverses the country, this Sunday Night Football homecoming for the Broncos will mean a lot for their postseason hopes.

Key storyline: Can the Broncos’ offense score enough to keep up with Tom Brady? Last season, the defense held Brady to 16 points, but the offense mustered just three points after a red-zone turnover by Trevor Siemian.

Player to watch: Tom Brady. It can’t be anyone else other than the 40-year-old, five-time Super Bowl champ. Will he be able to continue his dominance as he crosses into his fourth decade of life, or will he show the same signs of rust that other quarterbacks his age often display?

Honorable mentions:

At Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday, Oct. 22, 1:25 p.m. PT): The Broncos’ first trip to the StubHub Center will also be a homecoming trip for Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy. The Broncos didn’t win a road game on their AFC West slate in 2016. That will need to change if the Broncos want to make it back to the playoffs.

At Washington (Sunday, Dec. 24, 1 p.m. ET): This Christmas Eve battle with the Redskins will match up the Broncos’ top-ranked pass defense with one of the league’s best passers, Kirk Cousins. A potential cold-weather road game in December? That has classic written all over it.

At Kansas City (Monday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. CT): Though Denver’s other battle with the Chiefs may ultimately hold more weight for the playoff hopes, this game won’t be one you should miss. A day-before-Halloween, Monday-Night-Football atmosphere at Arrowhead may be the most raucous one the Broncos play in front of all year on the road.