ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Wednesday.
The 2021 season will kick off Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Dallas Cowboys at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Week 1 will close out Sept. 13 when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football.
The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022, and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.
Here's what in store for the Broncos:
Schedule (Times are ET)
Sept. 12: at N.Y. Giants
Sept. 19: at Jacksonville
Sept. 26: vs. N.Y. Jets
Oct. 3: vs. Baltimore
Oct. 10: at Pittsburgh
Oct. 17: vs. Las Vegas
Oct. 21: at Cleveland (TNF)
Oct. 31: vs. Washington
Nov. 7: at Dallas
Nov. 14: vs. Philadelphia
Nov. 21: BYE
Nov. 28: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Dec. 5: at Kansas City
Dec. 12: vs. Detroit
Dec. 19: vs. Cincinnati
Dec. 26: at Las Vegas
Jan. 2: at Los Angeles Chargers
Jan. 9: vs. Kansas City
Strength of schedule: .471, T-27th.
Maybe the league's schedule makers aren't banking on the whole Aaron Rodgers to the Broncos thing, but make no mistake the late Pat Bowlen would not have been happy about one prime-time appearance for the team. During his time as owner when Bowlen was asked, what was important for the Broncos, he would almost always answer "to be relevant," just before he would say "and win championships." Even for a franchise with the history the Broncos have, this is what five consecutive playoff misses gets you, including last year's 5-11 finish. The Broncos' only prime-time appearance in 2021 is the required, everybody-gets-one Thursday night affair -- theirs is Oct. 21 in Cleveland.
They are not on the Sunday night or Monday night schedule. It also breaks a 29-year streak of at least one appearance on Monday Night Football, the longest streak in the history of MNF.
One storyline to watch
As Vic Fangio heads into Year 3 as the Broncos' coach, he is 0-for-September so far -- 0-3 in September last season and 0-4 in 2019. In fact the Broncos haven't even been above .500 at the season's halfway point since 2016 when they were 6-2 after eight games on the way to a 9-7 finish, also their last season to finish above .500.
The Broncos get the Giants, Jets and Jaguars this September, a run that could include two rookie quarterbacks in Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence. If the Broncos have improved as much this offseason as they say they have, there are no excuses for a stumble in September this time around.
What Vegas thinks
The Broncos' over/under for wins this season, according to Caesars sportsbook by William Hill, is 9.
An over would be 10-7 or better in the new scheduling format and that would likely put the Broncos in at least the wild-card round conversation. And if they can stay even a little healthier than 2020, their depth chart is good enough to be worried about playoff tiebreakers at season's end.
Who will line up under center in Week 1? Will Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater compete or will the the Green Bay Packers relent and trade Aaron Rodgers? No matter who is throwing the ball, the Broncos will have two 70-catch wide receivers -- Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy -- for the first time since 2016 when Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders finished that season with 90 and 79 catches respectively.