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Predicting the Broncos' 2021 schedule

The annual schedule release is one of my favorite moments on the NFL calendar.

It's great to see when the Broncos will play each opponent, debate the toughest and easiest stretches on the slate and circle the prime-time matchups.

It's also a sign that the season is within reach.

The Broncos' 2021 schedule will be released on Wednesday, May 12 at 6 p.m. MT, but before the official slate is announced, I'm ready for a now annual — and largely fruitless — exercise in prognostication.

Since I enjoy the schedule release so much — perhaps more than anyone I know except for my friend and coworker Phil Milani — I figured it's time to again predict the Broncos' schedule.

The NFL's schedule makers create thousands of schedules before picking the one they use each year, and there are typically hundreds of trillions of combinations for the formerly 256-game regular-season schedule.

Of course, we'll have a 17-game schedule — and still just one bye — for the first time in 2021, which only makes this exercise even more difficult.

We do know the Broncos' home and road opponents, which means I'll have at least some info to work with as I try to predict the slate.

As a reminder, Denver hosts the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Bengals, Ravens, Eagles, Washington Football Team, Jets and Lions. The Broncos will travel to play the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Browns, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants and Jaguars.

Otherwise, I'll rely on a few pieces of information to guide me for the opener, the second game of the year and the season's final game.

For Week 1, the Broncos have opened on "Monday Night Football" in three of the last four seasons as the second game of a double-header. NBC Sports' Peter King, though, reported that there will likely be only one Monday-night game to start the 2021 season. I'll stick with a Sunday matchup for the Broncos to start the year, but the Colorado Buffaloes are scheduled to play Texas A&M on Sept. 11 at Empower Field at Mile High. I'm guessing the NFL wouldn't schedule a Broncos home game the day after a college matchup, so I think Denver will open on the road for only the second time since 2010.

The Broncos haven't played their first two games on the road since 2003, and that's happened just twice since the 1970 merger. That means the Broncos should be back at Empower Field at Mile High in Week 2 for their home opener.

The final game of the year may be the easiest to predict, as the Broncos have closed with one of their division rivals in each of the last 13 seasons. Five of those last eight season finales have been against the Raiders, and four of them were in Denver against the silver and black.

What does all this information mean? Potentially nothing. A year ago, I didn't match a single game on the schedule — though the process was complicated by media rumors of a schedule front-loaded with inter-conference matchups.

Hey, there's nowhere to go but up this year.

Take a look below at my best guess — and then tweet at me @AricDiLalla to let me know what your ideal opening game would be.

Week 1: at Las Vegas Raiders

Week 2: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football)

Week 3: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Week 4: at Los Angeles Chargers

Week 5: at Dallas Cowboys

Week 6: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week 7: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Thursday Night Football)

Week 8: vs. Detroit Lions

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: vs. New York Jets

Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 12: at New York Giants

Week 13: vs. Washington Football Team

Week 14: at Cleveland Browns

Week 15: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday Night Football)

Week 16: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Week 17: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 18: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

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