The Denver Broncos offered plenty of on-field looks as to why their own offseason optimism about what’s to come in the 2015 season was not misplaced. They have plenty of team speed on defense, Von Miller is poised for a monster season and quarterback Peyton Manning will run an offense that will look slightly different than the pedal-to-the-metal affair of the last two seasons. But Manning said he expects a more run-heavy affair to be just as productive. Injuries are always the wild card in the league and if the Broncos, who already lost left tackle Ryan Clady in May to a season-ending knee injury, avoid too many more, they should win their fourth consecutive division title.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, Baltimore, 4:25 p.m. ET
This will be the second time in three seasons the Broncos have opened the year with the Ravens visiting Denver. Since coach Gary Kubiak was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator last season, everybody involved in this one will have a good idea of what’s coming. Broncos 27, Ravens 13. Record: 1-0.
Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 17, at Kansas City, 8:25 p.m. ET
The Broncos’ season will be five days old, and they will have already played twice by the time this one is over. The Chiefs, like the Broncos, gave their offensive line an extreme makeover, including a trade for former Pro Bowl selection Ben Grubbs. The made-over offensive line that plays the best on a short week will likely decide this one. Broncos 24, Chiefs 13. Record: 2-0.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, at Detroit, 8:30 p.m. ET
The Broncos haven’t played a regular-season game in Detroit since 2007. The Broncos’ aggressive defense, with plenty of man coverages behind a get-after-it pass rush, will get a significant test here in Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Broncos 24, Lions 13. Record: 3-0.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, Minnesota, 4:25 p.m. ET
The Broncos have faced Vikings RB Adrian Peterson once in Peterson’s career -- in 2007, when the then-Vikings rookie had 36 yards rushing in what was a 22-19 Broncos win. Peterson didn’t play in the 2011 meeting between the two teams. He was slowed some in the preseason with a thigh injury. Broncos 27, Vikings 16. Record: 4-0.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m. ET
Raiders coach -- and former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio -- figures to put together a things-Manning-doesn’t-like game plan, but the Broncos have scored at least 34 points in five of the last six games against the Raiders. This will be the Broncos’ first look at the Raiders’ prized rookie -- WR Amari Cooper. Broncos 35, Raiders 16. Record: 5-0.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET
The Browns revealed they have some pass-protection issues in the preseason, and that is the single-biggest difficulty they will have with the Broncos' defense. The Broncos haven’t played in Cleveland since 2008 and the Browns haven’t defeated the Broncos since 1990. Broncos 34, Browns 10. Record: 6-0.
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, Green Bay, 8:30 p.m. ET
Both of these heavyweights will have had a bye week to prepare before this prime-time matchup in Denver. The Packers will have had plenty of time to work through the loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a knee injury, and there won’t be a better test in the season for the Broncos' defense to see if it as good as the players think it is. Broncos 23, Packers 21. Record: 7-0.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, at Indianapolis, 4:25 p.m. ET
There won’t be quite the drama as the last time the Broncos played in Lucas Oil Stadium, when it was Manning’s first game in Indy in another team’s uniform. You would think if the Broncos can muster some emotion against anybody, it would be against the team that unceremoniously bounced them from the postseason last January. But a Packers-Colts double is a lot to ask of any team. Colts 28, Broncos 24. Record: 7-1.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, Kansas City, 4:25 p.m. ET
This figures to be a key spot in the season if the Broncos want to win a fifth consecutive division title. Manning has been a particular irritant for the Chiefs, going 7-0 (counting the predicted win in Week 2) against Kansas City in his time with the Broncos, including the last three wins in Denver when the Broncos have scored 38, 27 and 24 points. Broncos 28, Chiefs 17. Record: 8-1.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET
Just another game? Uh, no, no matter what they say in the days in front of this one. The Broncos’ hierarchy will want to show the decision to part ways with John Fox was the correct one and the Bears’ staff, with Fox as the team’s coach, will want to show a mistake was made after Fox’s teams won four consecutive AFC West titles. Keep an eye out for trick plays from the Bears as former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase is expected to rev things up and be plenty aggressive. Broncos 33, Bears 20. Record: 9-1.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, New England, 8:30 p.m. ET
Several of the big-game failings in recent seasons for the Broncos have come against the Patriots -- New England outscored the Broncos 86-33 in two meetings in 2011, including the playoffs, and the Patriots have scored at least 31 points in each of their last five wins against the Broncos, including a 43-21 rout last November. Broncos 28, Patriots 27. Record: 10-1.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, at San Diego, 4:05 p.m. ET
The Broncos will face the Chargers twice over the last five weeks of the regular season. The post-Thanksgiving stretch was not all that kind to the Broncos last season; they won games but it was a struggle and the doldrums stayed with them into the playoffs. Broncos 24, Chargers 13. Record: 11-1.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, Oakland, 4:05 p.m. ET
If the Broncos live up to their own expectations, this game will be about playoff positioning and having a shot at home-field advantage in the AFC. This will be a test of their concentration and their ability to power themselves down the stretch. Broncos 28, Raiders 9. Record: 12-1.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m. ET
The Steelers have the offensive profile to test the Broncos’ front seven. They can move smoothly from the power run game to a no-huddle team that pushes the ball down the field in the passing game out of open formations. And any late-season trip to confluence of the three rivers is always a potential pothole. Steelers 24, Broncos 23. Record: 12-2.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 28, Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. ET
On a bad-weather night in Cincinnati, Manning had his only four-interception game of his Broncos tenure against the Bengals last season. This time around, this game should have a lot to say about the Broncos’ postseason positioning, and their effort should reflect that. Broncos 28, Bengals 17. Record: 13-2
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, San Diego, 4:25 p.m. ET
I still believe there is a good chance the Broncos' postseason seeding could be determined by this point. If it is, expect some veterans to get the day off. If it isn’t, this is another potential win, but in this scenario we're going with a rest day for some of the marquee names. Chargers 27, Broncos 20. Record: 13-3.