ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' 2020 schedule was released Thursday, and Broncos Country already has plenty of questions about how the season will unfold.
In this edition of "Ask Aric," we explore another late-season trip to Kansas City, how early games could impact the playoff hunt and a lot more.
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Hi from England. For the past ten odd years we have to play in KC second ... when it's colder and more hostile. Once in about a blue/orange moon we play them early in season in KC and guess what?? We win!! Why does this happen? Why are we always home first then away?? – Niall F.
Niall, it may seem like the Broncos are always in Kansas City late in the year, but it's actually been a fairly even split. Over a 10-year stretch from 2010-19, the second matchup of the season between the Broncos and Chiefs took place in Kansas City on six occasions. The Broncos, perhaps unsurprisingly, were actually fairly successful during the first three of those matchups. They were 2-0 in Kansas City in December with Peyton Manning under center and started the decade with a 2-1 mark. The last few years, though, have been tougher. The Broncos have not won in Arrowhead at all since 2015, and they've gone 0-3 in those late-season matchups since Manning retired. That's not altogether surprising. Just three Broncos quarterbacks have won a game at Arrowhead in December. And while Broncos fans shouldn't expect to play there in December every year, the Broncos played in Kansas City before the end of September just twice in the last 20 years. A large majority of the matchups in either location have been concentrated later in the year over the last decade, but there's a pretty logical explanation for why the Chiefs haven't played host early in the season: They share a parking lot with the Kansas City Royals. The possibility of conflicting games is enough to keep the Chiefs away until the baseball season is over, and the scheduling has reflected that. The Chiefs have played two of their first three games on the road in eight of the last 10 seasons.
Do you think a loss to the Patriots or Steelers early could come back to bite us when we try and make a playoff run? – Noah G.
Noah, it's hard to predict which games could factor into the wild-card race at the end of the season. It's possible that the first four AFC teams the Broncos face could all be jockeying for wild-card positioning at the end of the season. That becomes particularly true with an added playoff spot this season. Depending on how things play out, the Titans, Steelers, Jets and Patriots could all be fighting for one of those three wild-card spots in the AFC. If the Broncos don't go at least 2-2 during that stretch, they could hurt themselves in a future tiebreak, as conference record plays a major role.
If the season opens with no fans/reduced number of fans, what will happen to tickets that have been purchased? – Erin T.
We received lots of questions this week about the upcoming season and what it will look like. Here's what we do know: The Broncos are preparing to play all 10 of their home games — including two preseason games — and they are following recommendations from public health officials, the NFL and local and state guidelines as they prepare for the season. If games are cancelled or fans cannot attend, the Broncos will provide full refunds or an account credit, depending on what the individual season ticket member wants. Fans are also protected if they purchase tickets through the NFL's ticketing partners. For more information, click here.
Given the Bradley Chubb injury last year, Malik Reed and Jeremiah Attaochu had some good play time, do you expect to see much from these guys this season? – Scott O.
Scott, both Reed and Attaochu proved their value last season without Chubb in the lineup as they recorded two and 3.5 sacks, respectively. Attaochu, in particular, came on late in the year and impressed Head Coach Vic Fangio. Seventh-round draft pick Derrek Tuszka could push for a roster spot, as well, but I expect Attaochu in particular should still have a role. It wouldn't surprise me if his sack numbers go up from a season ago.
The Broncos & Cowboys will both install a new offensive scheme in the 2020 season. It is also the first pro season for both WRs Jerry Jeudy & CeeDee Lamb. Another first is Drew Lock's 16-game season as an NFL QB. Different story for Dak Prescott. With the difference of QB play, does it seem possible Jerry Jeudy can reach the Pro Bowl at the same time or before CeeDee Lamb? – Tom G.
Lamb, whom the Cowboys took with the 17th-overall pick in April's draft, enters an offense with a Pro Bowl receiver in Amari Cooper, a Pro Bowl running back in Ezekiel Elliot and a Pro Bowl quarterback in Dak Prescott. Denver's offense also features a Pro Bowl wideout and a pair of Pro Bowl running backs. Lock, though, would have to help elevate the Broncos' offense drastically in order for multiple players on that side of the ball to go to the Pro Bowl for Denver. Dallas' offense ranked first in total offense in 2019, while the Broncos ranked 28th. The Broncos certainly need to get closer to the top half of the league in that category for people to take notice and send multiple receivers to the Pro Bowl from Denver's roster. Besides, it tends to take a few years for players to get Pro Bowl recognition, as it's somewhat of a popularity contest. Safety Justin Simmons was a second-team All-Pro last year and still didn't get voted to the Pro Bowl. Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, to whom Jeudy has been compared, caught 64 passes for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie. He still didn't make the Pro Bowl. For that reason, offensive rookie of the year may be a better battle to watch between Jeudy and Lamb. If a quarterback doesn't win, one of those two players — or Las Vegas' Henry Ruggs III — could be near the top of the list.
One interesting note: Dallas, an 8-8 team in 2019, had six Pro Bowlers last season. The 7-9 Broncos had just two.
Which week do you think is a guaranteed win for Denver, and which is a guaranteed loss? — Arick V.
Arick, while I respect the name, I'm not going to say any win is guaranteed and certainly not that any loss is a sure thing. I will say that I think the Broncos need to take care of business at home against the Dolphins and on the road against the Panthers. A home game against the Saints and a road game in Kansas City appear to be the toughest tests on the slate. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from those two statements.