As the release of the Broncos' 2019 regular-season schedule inches closer, we've considered how this year's slate could shape up.
Will the Broncos start at home for the ninth consecutive year, or will Vic Fangio and Co. head out on the road to begin the 2019 season? Will trips to Buffalo and Green Bay be accompanied by December snow storms, or will sunny September weather await? Which teams might the Broncos face in prime time?
These are all questions that will be answered when the NFL releases the schedule in the near future. But we just couldn't wait for answers.
That's why we asked Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson and Emmanuel Sanders for their best guesses on what the Broncos will face this fall.
Four of the five Broncos we polled expect to open at Broncos Stadium at Mile High for the ninth consecutive season. Those games have been friendly to the Broncos, as the team has won seven consecutive openers. Both Sanders (Raiders) and Simmons (Chiefs) expect a division test to open the season, which would give Denver the chance to get an early leg up in the standings. Jackson (Browns) and Chubb (Titans), meanwhile, think they'll battle an AFC opponent in Fangio's first game as the Broncos' coach. Sutton (Vikings) is the lone player who thinks the Broncos will start their season on someone else's turf. The Broncos last opened on the road in 2010 in Jacksonville.
Both Jackson and Chubb think the Broncos will open their road slate with an early-season trip to Buffalo. The last time the Broncos traveled to Buffalo was in Week 3 of the 2017 season, and the weather was far from the frigid temperatures you would see later in the year. Sanders (Titans) and Simmons (Texans) think the road schedule will start with an AFC South foe. Sutton believes Denver will start the season on the road in Minnesota.
Jackson, Sutton and Chubb all think the Chargers will be the Broncos' first division opponent of the season. Chubb, though, is the only one of the three who thinks their first meeting will be at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. The Broncos split last season's series with the Chargers, winning on the road before falling at home in the season finale. Sanders' Oakland pick for the season opener means the Broncos' division schedule will start early. Simmons, meanwhile, expects a home date with the Chiefs will start their divisional slate. In 2018, the Broncos faced the Raiders in their first division game of the season. No matter which team Denver plays, the game will likely come early in the schedule. The Broncos opened with the Chargers in 2017 and faced the Raiders in Week 2 in 2018. In fact, in four of the last five seasons, the Broncos have played a divisional game in one of the first two weeks of the season. In 2016, Denver did not play a divisional foe until Week 6.
Jackson and Sutton had the same line of thinking when asked which game was most likely to be in prime time. Both players think the allure of Fangio coaching against his former team will be too much for networks to ignore, and the Broncos will meet the Bears in a nationally televised game. Chubb also thinks the Broncos will host a prime-time matchup, but he expects to see a re-run of last year's game against the Browns. Cleveland snuck away with a win in 2018, but Chubb will have his eyes on a win this time around. Sanders thinks the Broncos' road trip to Indianapolis will be one that's in prime time. The Broncos played the Colts on "Thursday Night Football" in 2017 and earned a win. Finally, Simmons expects prime-time billing for Denver's game in Kansas City. The Broncos haven't beaten the Chiefs since 2015, but their last win over Kansas City was a last-second victory on "Thursday Night Football."
There may be no more important game on the schedule than the last one. For the last eight years, the NFL schedule has ended with every team playing a division opponent, which means playoff positioning is often at stake. The Broncos have ended with a division opponent even more often; Denver has concluded each of the last 11 regular seasons with a division game. Four of the five players expect that trend to continue. Jackson (Raiders), Sutton (Chiefs) and Simmons (Chargers) all think the Broncos will finish up with a divisional opponent at home. Chubb, meanwhile, thinks the Broncos will end the season against Oakland on the road. Oakland may indeed be the best bet, as the Broncos finished 2018 against the Chargers and 2017 against the Chiefs. Is it the Raiders' turn? Sanders went against the grain with his final prediction, as he expects the Broncos to finish up with a non-division opponent. He thinks Cleveland will be on the docket as the Broncos wrap up the regular season.