Our Pavlovian football response is in full swing.
On Dec. 29, we learned who our opponents in 2020 would be. On March 18, we began to see who would be joining their rosters in free agency. On April 25, each team completed its draft class.
And on May 7, the schedule release put it all into order.
Now, we're basically turning our full attention toward the season. My colleagues have taken a closer look at the important of certain games and stretches, but I want to focus on the individual matchups. Here are some of my favorites:
5. DL Jurrell Casey vs. RB Derrick Henry: Week 1 vs. Tennessee
I'm a total sucker for these "revenge" games, and the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman going up against the guy who ran for 1,273 yards over an eight-game stretch in 2019 is just what I want to see to start the season.
4. WR Courtland Sutton vs. CB Stephon Gilmore: Week 5 at New England
Without Tom Brady under center for New England, this game won't feel the same. But even though there's a question mark at quarterback, you can be sure Bill Belichick's defense will come to play. That unit, which was the top-ranked defense in 2019, boasts one of the finest secondaries in large part because of Gilmore. The three-time Pro Bowler is coming off back-to-back first-team All-Pro seasons and should give Sutton one of his toughest tests as he looks to build on his first Pro Bowl appearance.
3. OLB Von Miller vs. QB Tom Brady: Week 3 vs. Buccaneers
Aside from Brady being in new duds, this is a classic matchup. It's hard to beat when one unanimous member of the NFL's 2010s All-Decade Team faces another.
2. QB Drew Lock vs. CB Chris Harris Jr.: Week 11 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Almost one year after making his first NFL start against the Chargers, Lock will try to show how much he's grown against the same team — but this time, they'll have the talented Chris Harris Jr. on their side. With Harris in the fold, Los Angeles has one of the league's best secondaries on paper, and the Broncos will need Lock at his best against his old teammate against the new-look Chargers.
1. OLB Von Miller vs. QB Patrick Mahomes: Week 7 vs. Kansas City
The Super Bowl 50 MVP facing off against the Super Bowl LIV MVP with a chance to end a nine-game skid against the Broncos' hated rivals is enough to win the top spot for me.
S Kareem Jackson vs. QB Ben Roethlisberger: Week 2 vs. Pittsburgh
As Roethlisberger makes his return from the elbow injury that ended his 2019 season, I'm interested to see how Jackson patrols the secondary to make life tough for him and his receivers, like how he did against the Deshaun Watson and the Texans in 2019.
CB A.J. Bouye vs. WR Michael Thomas; CB Bryce Callahan vs. WR Emmanuel Sanders: Week 12 vs. New Orleans
Man, I couldn't just pick one. It's tough to choose between the NFL's 2019 leader in receptions and receiving yards and the former Bronco making his return to Empower Field at Mile High. Either way, the Broncos' secondary will have its hands full on Nov. 29.
ILB Alexander Johnson vs. RB Christian McCaffrey: Week 14 at Carolina
Johnson will be a busy man during this game. In 2019, McCaffrey became the third running back in league history to have at least 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. But Johnson proved to be dynamic for Denver and should only improve in his second season as a starter.
Below the Fold
The Denver Post's Sean Keeler wrote a moving story on third-round pick McTelvin Agim's trying path to the NFL and how he had a necessary change of heart to change his future. There's also some rather fascinating notes about Agim's athletic feats in high school, including how he averaged 50 yards per kick return during his senior season.
To celebrate Mother's Day, 9NEWS talked with Dalton Risner and his mother about their bond. "You want to know a little about my mom? She's one of the most tenderhearted people you'll ever meet. She sure did love having boys and she was the perfect mom to have five boys," Risner said.
Sports Illustrated's Connor Orr ranked the Broncos' season opener vs. Tennessee No. 6 on his list of the top 15 games to look forward to this season, and Broncos vs. Chargers in Week 11 came in at No. 8.