Game-by-game predictions: Denver Broncos

Since Peyton Manning ’s arrival, the Denver Broncos have been the Alpha team in the AFC West. Coming off an 8-8 season that won the division in 2011 with Tim Tebow at the wheel of a read-option offense, the Broncos have won 13, 13 and 12 games in the last three seasons and made a Super Bowl trip. At 39-years old, Manning is back in an offense that figures to muscle up more and score as much to go with a defense that had five Pro Bowl players last season. If the Broncos can avoid the potholes of major injuries, it looks like a 13-3 season with the fifth division title in a row.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, Baltimore, 4:25 p.m. ET

It will be the second time in three seasons the Broncos will open the season, at home against the Ravens. The last time -- Sept. 5, 2013 -- Manning threw seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 victory in what became a Super Bowl season for the Broncos. Broncos 27, Ravens 13. Record: 1-0.

Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 17, at Kansas City, 8:25 p.m. ET

It is the second consecutive season the Broncos will play the Chiefs in Week 2. Last season it was in Denver -- a 24-17 Broncos' victory. It’s a short turnaround this time for the Broncos, but it is also the shortest road trip the team can make. Broncos 30, Chiefs 17. Record: 2-0.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Detroit, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Broncos haven’t played in Detroit since 2007 and Mike Shanahan was still the team’s coach. The Lions won’t have Ndamukong Suh in the middle of their defensive line and it will likely matter in this one. Broncos 24, Lions 13. Record: 3-0.

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, Minnesota, 4:25 p.m. ET

A year ago, this was the Broncos’ bye week, their last full week off before a 13-game stretch to close the regular season. Still to be determined if this game includes Adrian Peterson at running back for the Vikings. Either way, this is one the Broncos should win. Broncos 27, Vikings 10. Record: 4-0.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m. ET

First-year Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, after three seasons as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, certainly has plenty of intel on what Manning does and doesn’t like to see from a defense. But in Manning’s three seasons with the Broncos, Denver has scored at least 34 points in five of the six games against the Raiders and the Broncos topped 40 points in both meetings in 2014. Broncos 35, Raiders 16. Record: 5-0.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET

The Broncos haven't gone to Cleveland since 2008 when the team ran out of running backs because of injuries and Jay Cutler threw 42 times for 447 yards. This time the Broncos will bring a far deeper, more explosive team on both sides of the ball. Broncos 34, Browns 10. Record: 6-0.

Week 7: BYE

Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Green Bay, 8:30 p.m. ET

This will be the sternest test of Wade Phillips' defense in the season’s first half. If the Broncos avoid injuries and handle their business, they should arrive to this heavyweight tussle undefeated. Broncos 23, Packers 21. Record: 7-0.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, at Indianapolis, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Colts, who certainly dove into free agency with some fervor -- eight new arrivals, including Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Trent Cole -- will have a different look than the team that bounced the Broncos from the postseason this past January. The Broncos are good enough to win here, but coming off the Green Bay game, a road stumble is waiting. Colts 28, Broncos 24. Record: 7-1.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, Kansas City, 4:25 p.m. ET

With Manning in the lineup, the Broncos enter the 2015 season 6-0 against the Chiefs in the previous three seasons, including three victories in Denver in which the team has scored 38, 27 and 24 points. The Broncos might also have a chance to show their bounce-back ability. Broncos 28, Chiefs 17. Record: 8-1.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET

Well, well, well, he comes some drama nobody involved will admit to when this week actually arrives. John Fox’s exit in Denver, though declared "mutual" last January, was slightly messy. We will all see if Fox can overcome the personnel issues the Bears have in the first season of the latest makeover. But those who know current Bears offensive coordinator -- and former Broncos offensive coordinator -- Adam Gase say that if the Bears can indeed get a lead in this one, they will keep the foot on the gas. Broncos 33, Bears 20. Record: 9-1.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, New England, 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s an easy argument to make, that Bill Belichick’s Patriots have done more than any other team to derail Manning’s championship aspirations through the years, and recently that has included the Broncos’ aspirations as well. The Broncos’ last win over the Patriots -- in Denver in the AFC Championship Game following the 2013 season -- sent Denver to the Super Bowl and the last loss, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, last November, essentially cracked the code of the team’s high-flying offense. Broncos 28, Patriots 27. Record: 10-1.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m. ET

For the third time in the last three seasons, the Broncos get a trip Southern California on Nov. 11 or later -- last year’s game at Qualcomm Stadium was Dec. 14. With the threat of a move to Los Angeles and plenty of offseason intrigue already in San Diego, with Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle seemingly unhappy, it’s hard to predict how the Chargers will look, or play, by this point. Broncos 31, Chargers 10. Record: 11-1.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, Oakland, 4:05 p.m. ET

When Gary Kubiak was hired as coach, one of the tasks he was given was to build a finishing kick for the Broncos. John Elway has said the “kicking and screaming" has been lacking in the last two postseason exits. This is a game that will be an indication of how things are going. Broncos 28, Raiders 9. Record: 12-1.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Broncos, if they stay injury free, should bring a team to Pittsburgh more than good enough to leave with a victory. But history says there is a bobble waiting somewhere in the second half of this slate. The Broncos have won 14 games just once in the franchise’s history -- 1998, Elway’s last season as a player and the Broncos’ second of back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Steelers 24, Broncos 23. Record: 12-2.

Week 16: Monday, Dec. 28, Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. ET

Only the location has changed for this one. The Bengals defeated the Broncos on a Monday night in Week 16 last season. But that was in Cincinnati and that will matter this time. Broncos 28, Bengals 17. Record: 13-2

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, San Diego, 4:25 p.m. ET.

Taking a flyer here that the playoff scenarios are set, the Broncos can’t improve their lot or lose ground, so a bevy of backups play the regular-season finale. Chargers 27, Broncos 20. Record: 13-3.