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New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees and Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey, from Colorado’s Valor Christian HS, speak following their game Sunday in Charlotte, N.C.

DENVER — Say what you will about Roger Goodell, but he’s winning.

He’s routing the commissioners of the other major sports leagues when it comes to putting the lead foot forward during the coronavirus pandemic. Running laps around them. Each time his NFL blasts its amateur draft to a record TV audience or unloads a full 16-game schedule, like he did Thursday, Goodell shows why he makes way too much money to be the commish.

He’s leading. He's operating with the best interests of his sport — his constituents' business — in mind. Who knows if the Broncos play the entire schedule, or if it's abbreviated? Who knows if there will be fans in the stands for the season opener at Empower Field at Mile High against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football?

No one knows. But at a time without sports, the NFL is still dominating sports headlines. Credit Goodell.

On to the Broncos’ 2020 schedule:

Week 1: Vs. Tennessee Titans

Monday, Sept. 14, 8:10 p.m.

Good news for the Broncos, who are 7-1 in their last eight home openers at Empower Field at Mile High. Will those stats embolden Colorado bettors who now can place a legal wager?

The pick: Broncos 17, Titans 16

Week 2: At Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m.

The word for this schedule: travel. Scrap the chartered flight. With five East Coast games, including this doozy at Heinz Field, fly commercial and rack up frequent flier miles.

The pick: Steelers 20, Broncos 16

Week 3: Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2:25 p.m.

Peyton, Tom, Phil and Tiger in a foursome? Sign us up. “The Match: Champions for Charity” is set for May 24 in Florida. Why Florida? Manning had a golden quip: “After Tom’s (breaking and entering) arrest, with the ankle monitor, he couldn’t leave the state.” Mile High’s always ready for Brady, Tampa Bay’s new quarterback.

The pick: Broncos 36, Bucs 23

Week 4: At New York Jets

Thursday, Oct. 1, 6:20 p.m.

The Jets’ win total is set at 6.5. The Broncos, 7.5. Now’s as good a time as any to beat Jets coach Adam Gase, who’s 1-0 vs. the team he helped to Super Bowl XLVIII. Since Gase became a head coach, he’s also beaten Denver in the standings (30-34 vs 27-37).

The pick: Jets 20, Broncos 16

Week 5: At New England Patriots

Sunday, Oct. 11, 11 a.m.

Vic Fangio prefers afternoon practices, even with our August storms. But with four games kicking off at 11 a.m. Denver time perhaps the Broncos will adjust their alarms for an early wake-up call.

The pick: Pats 23, Broncos 6

Week 6: Vs. Miami Dolphins

Sunday, Oct. 18, 2:05 p.m.

So what’s up with the NFL throwing out a full schedule even as sports media project only doomsday warnings over the virus? “We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary,” Goodell said. Releasing a full schedule was a refreshing burst of optimism for folks who need it. 

The pick: Broncos 33, Dolphins 13

Week 7: Vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2:25 p.m.

One idea for the Mile High giveaway when the Chiefs visit: a Broncos-logoed stopwatch. And it might hurt halftime beer sales, but double-down and host a 100-meter sprint between Chiefs jet Tyreek Evans and Broncos rookie A.J. Hamler. The champs take the rare 'L' on the way out.

The pick: Broncos 32, Chiefs 30

Week 8: BYE

Week 9: At Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, Nov. 8, 11 a.m.

Instead of London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Broncos and Birds meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the ATL. Look for the Broncos to lobby for an overseas trip in 2021.

The pick: Broncos 20, Falcons 18

Week 10: At Las Vegas Raiders

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2:05 p.m.

Here, I checked for you: Frontier Airlines leaves Colorado Springs Airport at 9:15 pm Saturday and returns 2:53 p.m. Monday. Craps, Broncos-Raiders, home in time for Monday's supper.

The pick: Raiders 23, Broncos 20

Week 11: Vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Sunday, Nov. 22, 2:05 p.m.

Philip Rivers, an Indianapolis Colt? Say it ain’t so. Anyone else going to miss Rivers yapping at Von Miller twice per season? By Week 11, glossy rookie Justin Herbert could be quarterbacking the Bolts, succeeding veteran Tyrod Taylor.

The pick: Broncos 23, Chargers 6

Week 12: Vs. New Orleans Saints

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2:05 p.m.

The NFL's best roster visits Mile High. What will determine if this Broncos 'D; is good... or great? If the cornerbacks can cover the likes of Michael Thomas, who caught a staggering 149 passes last season, and old friend Emmanuel Sanders.

The pick: Saints 26, Broncos 23

Week 13: At Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, Dec. 6, 6:20 p.m.

A quick gander over Kansas City's first-place schedule says the Chiefs won’t lose more than four games. When are the Broncos back? When they stop a nine-game losing streak vs. K.C.

The pick: Chiefs 23, Broncos 16

Week 14: At Carolina Panthers

Sunday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m.

Christian McCaffrey’s first game against the Broncos. And what a cool break for the fam: Northern Colorado’s new coach, Ed McCaffrey, can be there for kickoff. His season will be over.

The pick: Broncos 27, Panthers 16

Week 15: Vs. Buffalo Bills

Sat./Sun., Dec. 19-20, TBD

This one doesn’t move the needle. So let’s point out how Goodell didn’t dodge COVID-19. He plugged Monday Night Football into the epicenter — New York (Giants) — in Week 1.

The pick: Broncos 22, Bills 20

Week 16: At Los Angeles Chargers

Sat./Sun., Dec. 26/27, TBD

Emerging star wide receiver Courtland Sutton told Broncos TV of facing new Charger Chris Harris Jr.: “If you come ill-prepared to the game he can embarrass you.” Fun times.

The pick: Broncos 26, Chargers 12

Week 17: Vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Sun., Jan. 3, 2:25 p.m.

Talk about a wild guess: predicting the Broncos’ record in May when it’s unclear if the season will be played in full. Oh, well. We hit last year’s 7-9 right on the dot. So go big or stay home: the Broncos return to relevancy with a 10-6 record. 

The pick: Broncos 33, Raiders 6

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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