2017 Denver Broncos game-by-game predictions

Just this week Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward said when you miss the playoffs, as the Broncos did in 2016, you have to get to work "in the dungeon" to earn your way back. The Broncos’ schedule gives them plenty of work to scrap their way back into the postseason conversation with the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins on the slate to go with two teams in their own division that made the playoffs last year -- the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Oh, and four of the last six games of the season are on the road.

Week 1: Sept. 11 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 10:15 p.m. ET

For the seventh consecutive season, the Broncos will open with a home game. They have not opened a season on the road since 2010, in Jacksonville, and are 5-1 in those previous six season openers. This will be the first visit by the Los Angeles Chargers to Denver since 1960, the first year the Broncos played in the AFL. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sept. 17 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET

It is the Cowboys’ first visit to Denver since 2009, which is exactly four head coaches ago for the Broncos, five division titles and two Super Bowl appearances. Overall, it will be just the seventh time the Cowboys have played in the Mile High City. But the game is on Fox, so former Cowboys quarterback turned CBS analyst Tony Romo will be elsewhere. Record: 2-0

Week 3: Sept. 24 at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

This is the first visit to Buffalo for the Broncos since a Christmas Eve appearance in 2011 -- a game in which Tim Tebow was intercepted three times. The game will feature two first-year head coaches in Vance Joseph and the Bills’ Sean McDermott. And the Broncos have had their issues through the years with the early game in the Eastern time zone, so Joseph gets his first crack at that trend. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Oct. 1 vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Broncos closed out the 2016 season with a home win over the Raiders -- it was Gary Kubiak's final game -- when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr didn’t play because of a broken leg. Hard to know how all of the team’s moving plans will affect the play on the field, but the Broncos usually have little difficulty getting things dialed in to face the Raiders. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Oct. 8 BYE

Broncos get an early off week this time around. It means they’ll have to wait until the days following a Thursday night appearance in Week 15 to give the players any more significant time off again. Record: 3-1

Week 6: Oct. 15 vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET

A good challenge for the "No-Fly Zone" in this one with Odell Beckham Jr. and former Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who signed a two-year deal with the Giants in free agency last month, offering some things for the Broncos' secondary to worry about. With the schedule rotations, it is the Giants’ first appearance in Denver since 2009. Record: 4-1

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

It will be the Broncos' first visit to the Chargers' intimate, temporary home at the StubHub Center. The stadium, which usually houses the LA Galaxy, is expected to seat 30,000 for an NFL game. It will also be the Broncos’ third AFC West game in the first seven weeks of the season. Record: 5-1

Week 8: Oct. 30 at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m. ET

This has been a notoriously difficult trip for the Broncos unless Peyton Manning has been at quarterback. Last season, the Broncos lost 33-10 and then-Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe threw a 2-yard touchdown pass just to put an exclamation point on a bad Broncos day at the office. Record: 5-2

Week 9: Nov. 5 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

This is another trip the Broncos haven’t made since 2009, so nobody on the roster was with the team that season. It will be the first look the Broncos’ defense, which has finished No. 1 in pass defense in each of the past two years, has at Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Record: 6-2

Week 10: Nov. 12 vs. New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m. ET

Another season, another game against the Patriots -- Manning used to joke "it’s another division game." This will be the seventh consecutive season the two teams have played in the regular season. They have faced each other three times in the playoffs over that span as well. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Nov. 19 vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 4:25 p.m. ET

From this point until the end of the season, the Broncos have just three home games. They have to make this one count. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Nov. 26 at Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET

Hard to know, with the move to Las Vegas having already been approved by the league, if Broncos fans will be able to make this more of a home game by scooping up tickets from disgruntled locals, much like they did in San Diego last season. Things could certainly change in the months ahead, but with some of the Broncos’ uncertainties in the offensive line right now, it's still hard to call a season sweep over one of last year’s AFC wild-card teams. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Dec. 3 at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

This is a nice December return to southern Florida, where Vance Joseph was the Dolphins' defensive coordinator last season. Dolphins coach Adam Gase knows the Broncos’ personnel well after his time in Denver and has worked with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on both Josh McDaniels’ and John Fox’s staffs, so both teams may need to find some new wrinkles to throw at each other. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Dec. 10 vs. New York Jets, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Jets will likely open the season with even more questions on offense than the Broncos. And by this time, both teams will have long settled into what they can, or can’t, do when they have the ball. The Broncos will likely lean on their defense for another late-season home win. Record: 8-5

Week 15: Dec. 14 at Indianapolis Colts, 8:25 p.m. ET

This one will be the dreaded short-week road trip for the Broncos and this will be 10th game they’ve played since their bye. A tough way to plow through the stretch for the Broncos in what figures to be a tight AFC West race. Record: 8-6.

Week 16: Dec. 24 at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET

This will be the Broncos' fourth game in the early time slot in the Eastern time zone. The Redskins have had plenty of intrigue this offseason with a front-office shake-up and quarterback Kirk Cousins getting the franchise player tag -- again. If the Broncos handle their business, their defense should carry them. Record: 9-6

Week 17: Dec. 31 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Broncos could well need this one to get back in the playoff field and it should also have a lot to say about the division race. Last season, the Broncos’ defense let the Chiefs put together a 10-play field goal drive in overtime to tie the game and another four-play field goal drive in overtime to win the game -- a 30-27 Broncos loss that was one of the games that kept Denver out of the postseason. Record: 10-6