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Woody Paige: 2017 Denver Broncos schedule backloaded with tough foes

April 23, 2017 Updated: April 23, 2017 at 7:14 am
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Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, right, hands off to Devontae Booker, left, during an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Is it unfathomable to believe that the Broncos could finish the season with the franchise's worst record at 3-13?

Outside of Colorado, the Broncos, just one season removed from a world championship, aren't getting any reverence. One usually reputable national website claims the Broncos might wind up as the second-worst team in the AFC. Another has speculated the Broncos could be 4-12, and one more predicted a 7-9 record, which caused guffawing, grumbling and grousing among the players.

Don't blame me for such ludicrous projections.

In fact, I'm certain the Broncos will win their first five games.

Nostradamus wasn't quite as sure, according to interpretations of the French astrologer's centuries-old prediction that in 2017 "the east also would weaken the west." AFC West teams indeed do play both the AFC East and the NFC East this year.

Immediately following the disclosure of the complete NFL schedule Thursday, fearless forecasts flooded the mainstream. The Gazette's brilliant Paul Klee applied logic and disappearing ink to an 8-8 extrapolation, and Jeff Legwold, the respected Colorado-based espn.com writer, foresaw 10-6. Yet, national "expert" prognosticators have the Broncos dropping below .500 and even as low as they were in 2010 (4-12) before John Elway's comeback and takeover.

I researched predictions made by media in the markets of Broncos' opponents, and they suggest that their teams will win 13 of the 16 games with the Broncos. Based on the enemies' theories, the Broncos will win the opener over the Carson California Chargers and other home games against the Bengals and the Jets.

Tough crowd.

As a result of last year's standings, the Broncos supposedly confront the league's most difficult schedule. Their foes' overall record was 147-107-2 (.578), and eight of those teams reached the playoffs in '16. However, strengths change drastically from one season to the next.

The Broncos do play eight games at (No Name) Field at Mile High stadium, and they also will play at New Era Field (Buffalo), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia) and FedEx Field (Washington).

The rest of the road schedule is a Mine Field (Kansas City, Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis and Los Angeles), and the eight games include five against serious playoff repeat contenders - the Raiders, the Chiefs, the Giants, the Cowboys and our old villainous Snidley Whiplashes from New England.

Here's a factoid: Including the four exhibition games, the Broncos will play against two of their former head coaches, the son of one of their ex-head coaches, four former coordinators, a former Broncos player who is a head coach and eight other former key assistants.

Here's another factoid: Of the past seven head coaches in their first season with the Broncos, five - Red Miller (who I talked to in a restaurant the other day, and he's fine, thank you), Dan Reeves, Wade Phillips, John Fox and Gary Kubiak - took the team to the postseason. Only Mike Shanahan (8-8) and Josh McDaniels (8-8) did not. So, the odds are with Vance Joseph.

Joseph's TechniOrange Dreamcoat will get off to the best victory start for the Broncos since Shanahan in 1998 (13 in a row), McDaniels in 2009 (6) and Kubiak in 2015 (7).

It's rather obvious, despite the noise emitting from Dove Valley about equal competition, that Trevor Siemian will be the starting quarterback because of the Broncos' alluring early season schedule. They should, and will, win five, maybe even six before the end of October - with four home games, a bye and two away vs. the Bills and the Chargers.

Yet, the back end of the Broncos' schedule is like the backside of a donkey.

They can lose eight of their final 10 - on the road at K.C., Philly, Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis and Washington and at home to the Patriots and the Chiefs.

That collapse would be of biblical and McDaniels' proportions.

No way no how are the Broncos about to win only three games in a regular season, as they did in 1961, or win 13 or 14, as they did with Elway and Peyton Manning.

The number of victories will be somewhere in between.

If you're going to Las Vegas (not yet for a game with the Raiders) to wager the over-under on the Broncos' victory total, the number is nine.

My opinion today is you won't win or lose the bet.

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