Pats lead challenging schedule in Broncos coach Vance Joseph's debut season

Von Miller & Co. are aiming to get back on top in the AFC West. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Denver Broncos.

Breakdown: The Broncos simply cannot afford a slow start in Vance Joseph's first season as coach. They will have to make the most of their schedule's first half given four of their first five games are in Denver. Joseph got no breaks in the road trip department, either. The Broncos have three consecutive road games as October turns to November and, in what they hope will be their stretch drive, four of their last six games are away. And while last year's totals rarely hold form in the new football year, the numbers say they Broncos will have to do it all against what is now the toughest strength of schedule in the league -- based on their opponents' 2016 record (.578).

What? Again: From John Fox to Gary Kubiak and now to Joseph, there is simply no escape from the New England Patriots. The defending Super Bowl champions may indeed live two time zones away from the Broncos, but the Nov. 12 game in downtown Denver will mark the seventh consecutive year the Broncos have faced the Patriots in a regular-season matchup. And that total doesn't include three playoff games since the start of the 2011 season. The Broncos' defense held the Patriots to their lowest point total of the 2016 season when Tom Brady was at quarterback in a 16-3 New England win.

Early bird gets the division: While the league has tried to construct the schedule so there are plenty of division rivals facing off down the stretch, the Broncos will have to get plenty of work done in the AFC West in the first half of their season. They open the season on a Monday night with a division game against the Los Angeles Chargers and have four of their six division games in the first half of the season. After the season's halfway point, they only have two division games -- Nov. 26 at the Oakland Raiders and the regular-season finale on Dec. 31 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Strength of schedule: 1st, .578

Broncos Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Monday, Sept. 11, Los Angeles Chargers, 10:20 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, Dallas, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, Oakland, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 5: BYE

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 8: Monday, Oct. 30, at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, New England, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, Cincinnati, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Miami, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, NY Jets, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 14, at Indianapolis, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, at Washington, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, Kansas City, 4:25 p.m.