Strength of schedule: Broncos

Denver Broncos coach John Fox has always tried to swat away any and all discussion about the potential difficulty of the next season's schedule.

"That's because they're all hard, they're all difficult," Fox said. "The people in this league are the best in the world at what they do. And the prognosticators don't always have it down. People were talking about our division before the season started like it was one of the worst and it turned out to be one of the best. So our approach has always been we know we'll have 16 [games] in the regular season and we'll be there and play."

Fox may want to hope it doesn't turn out the way the numbers crunch at the moment. The Broncos won't know specific dates until some time in April, but the early returns are that their 2014 slate computes to be one of the league's toughest after 2013's run to the Super Bowl.

Overall, the Broncos, based on 2013 records, will have the second-most difficult strength of schedule next season (opponents had a .570 winning percentage overall). Their home opponents had a .555 winning percentage last season -- tied for fifth-most difficult -- and the road opponents had a .586 winning percentage.

In addition to their usual AFC West stops, the road slate includes the team that just cratered the Broncos' title hopes -- the Seattle Seahawks -- a game that figures to get a long look to be played on the season's opening night.

The Seahawks are just the starting point of the real strength in the Broncos' schedule, as Denver will have to navigate, because of the league's schedule rotation, through the rugged NFC West. Along with Seattle, the Broncos will face St. Louis on the road while San Francisco and Arizona will play in Denver.

The Broncos will also go to New England -- again -- so at least they know what hotels they like. Denver has played one road game in Foxborough, Mass., in each of the past three seasons and in four of the past six years.

Overall, the Broncos will face seven teams that made the playoffs as well as all three teams -- New England, Indianapolis and San Diego -- that beat them in the regular season in 2013.