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Mason's Mailbag: Scheduling, uniforms and more

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.*

In the last four Super Bowls, the Broncos or the Patriots have represented the AFC. Why is then that, we have the toughest or one of the toughest schedules in each of the last three years and the Pats have one of the easier schedules coming of a Super Bowl victory?

-- Fawad Khan

It's all about factors beyond those teams' control, specifically the schedule rotation and the quality of the opponents within the divisions they face.

Each division is paired with one division in its own conference and one in the opposite conference for non-divisional play. In 2016, the Patriots and the rest of the AFC East happened to be paired with the divisions whose teams had the worst combined records in the NFL: the AFC North and NFC West. The eight teams in those two divisions mustered a combined winning percentage of .394.

The Broncos were paired with the more competitive AFC South and NFC South, whose teams had a collective winning percentage of .484. Then you take the fact that the Patriots' AFC East foes went 22-26, while the Broncos' AFC West competition went 29-19, and you have the difference. The gaps were not as pronounced in 2015 and 2014, but the Broncos still had a more difficult schedule.

You'll note that I'm not getting into this year's schedule. Although there is plenty of chatter about the difficulty of the 2017 slate, most of that is based on last year's records.

New England's 2016 slate stands as an example of why relying on the previous year's finishes is misguided. Twelve months ago, the Patriots appeared to have a difficult 2016 schedule because they were paired with the AFC North and NFC West. Both divisions proved to be duds; just two of the eight teams in them finished at .500 or better. Meanwhile, five teams in the AFC South and NFC South were .500 or better.

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As a longtime Broncos fan I loved the old white jersey/orange pants uniforms for away games used in the late 60s to early 70s. Is there any hope of them using this uniform combo in the future? Like this year, maybe?**

-- Rod Huffman

Not for this year, and not for the foreseeable future, as no uniform changes are currently in the pipeline.

Uniform alterations typically require multiple years of planning and approval from the NFL. Even changing a jersey from alternate to primary takes multiple years. For example, the Broncos announced they would flip-flop their alternate and primary jerseys of orange and blue in 2010, but could not make the change until 2012.

Watching TV the other day (can't remember which show) and two of the guys mentioned they believed Chad Kelly would be the Broncos starter this year if given the fair chance in training camp. Is it possible Denver will give him a look or will he strictly be viewed as a work in progress?

-- Josh Sibley

He isn't even expected to begin throwing the football until training camp, and he will be a good distance behind Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch since he was only able to take mental repetitions during OTAs.

Furthermore, not only must he complete recovery from the wrist injury he suffered in the spring, but he's also getting all the way back from the torn ACL and meniscus he had last November. Realistically, Kelly's 2017 season will likely be all about learning the scheme, acclimating to the professional environment and getting back to 100-percent health. In 2018, we should get a clearer read as to where he stands.

I think he would have been a Day 2 pick if he did not have the injury concerns. The talent is there. His development will be fascinating to watch.

How much stock do you put in PFF ratings? Sometimes I feel they are accurate and other times I feel they are not.

-- Nina Jennings

PFF is an outstanding tool, but it is not the be-all, end-all, because it doesn't know the play-call and the specific assignment of each player on every snap. However, plenty of value can be extracted from their their dives into quarterback numbers and their assessment of one-on-one battles. (This is why I think their sustained praise of cornerback Chris Harris Jr., going back to the 2012 season, is on the money.)

Although not perfect, sites like PFF and Football Outsiders has illuminated the discussion of why some players and schemes succeed and why some don't. When you compare the analysis of 2017 to just 10 or 15 years ago, we are light years ahead of those days because of their work. Generalities and banalities that defined analysis in previous decades are unacceptable now.

The smaller sample sizes in football ensure that analytics will never be as accurate a predictor as they are in baseball, but they do have value in the NFL.

Do all players work out during the offseason?

-- Jason Morgan

Let's put it this way: The player that does not work during the offseason will not have a roster spot during the regular season.

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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