Denver Broncos 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Adam OdekirkContributor IIApril 17, 2012

Denver Broncos 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    There has not been a feeling of optimism in Denver like the one presently being felt since John Elway was running out of the tunnel on Sundays. The addition of Peyton Manning adds instant credibility to the Broncos' playoff chances, and possibly more.

    Denver will not face an easy road considering they square off with seven playoff teams from last season, highlighted by traveling to meet the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots. Add the Ravens, Saints, Falcons, Bengals, Texans and Steelers to the mix, and Manning will have his work cut out for him.

    Denver need really only defend the AFC West and win their favorable games to ensure their playoff position, but much of that rests on the capable shoulders of the new No. 18 in Denver.

    Here is a game-by-game prediction for the Broncos' 2012 season. 

Week 1: Steelers vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 8:20 EST (6:20 MST)

    NETWORK: NBC

    The "Manning Era" officially begins in Denver with a rematch of the exciting playoff game last season with the Steelers. Pittsburgh comes back to Denver looking for revenge, but this time, they will face a much more effective passing attack from Denver led by Manning.

    The bigger question for Denver will be how effective their defensive front line is against the grinding Pittsburgh run game. Denver fans remember Isaac Redman rumbling through the middle of the defense at will last season, and in order to win, that must be rectified.

    PREDICTION: Steelers 17 Broncos 28

Week 2: Broncos vs Falcons

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    KICKOFF TIME: 8:30 EST (6:30 MST)

    NETWORK: ESPN

    The Broncos make their first road trip to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for Monday Night Football. Much of the talk will swirl around the matchup between the legend Peyton Manning and the rising star, Matt Ryan.

    However, this game will test how effective the addition of Tracy Porter at cornerback for Denver depending on the performances of Roddy White and Julio Jones. The pass-rushing of Von MIller and Elvis Dumervil will have a lot to do with that as well, and the other side the Broncos offensive line will need to keep John Abraham out of Manning's face.

    This will be a tough travel test for Denver, and one that the newly-forming Broncos might not quite be ready for. The combination of Michael Turner, White, Jones and Ryan will be too much to handle at home and will control the game for Atlanta.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 20 Falcons 24

Week 3: Texans vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:15 EST (2:15 MST)

    NETWORK: CBS

    This will be the first time that the Denver Broncos truly feel the impact of having Peyton Manning and his preparedness on their side when they face his old division foe, the Houston Texans, in Denver.

    The cast has changed slightly for Houston since Manning last played them, but the Texans are still haunted by the constant dominance that Manning displayed in his time in Indianapolis. Manning will try to see if his connection with young receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas is on track against an opponent that he is familiar with.

    If Champ Bailey can lock down Andre Johnson, the Denver defense may survive a strong performance from Arian Foster and outlast the Texans offensive attack.

    PREDICTION: Texans 14 Broncos 21

Week 4: Raiders vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:05 EST (2:05 MST)

    NETWORK: CBS

    The rivalry with the Raiders is renewed, as the new head coach walking the sidelines for the Raiders, Dennis Allen, was Denver's defensive coordinator last season. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Allen has absolutely no inside knowledge of the Denver offense any longer with the departure of Tebow and arrival of Manning.

    This will allow Denver to seize momentum early and often as they stake their first claim of the AFC West throne. Oakland's defense is a good one, but hurt by the loss of Stanford Routt and not ready to cover the Manning led passing attack.

    Manning might also try to give Oakland a heavy dose of Willis McGahee based on the success that the Denver running game demonstrated over Oakland late last season.

    PREDICTION: Oakland 13 Denver 31

Week 5: Broncos vs Patriots

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:15 EST (2:15MT)

    NETWORK: CBS

    This is the marquee quarterback matchup that the NFL drools over: Manning vs Brady.

    The Broncos were spared the death sentence that comes with being asked to travel across the country and play the early game by being scheduled for the second half of the Sunday slate in Foxboro. Still, the dismantling of the Denver defense by Tom Brady last season was artful and could very well happen again.

    Belichick and Brady have added more offensive weapons to torture the Denver defense, and the young safety tandem that is likely to start for Denver, Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, will be exposed early in the season.

    Manning will make a valiant effort to match his rival, but Denver will need more time to gel in order to compete on the road in games like this.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 24 Patriots 34 

Week 6: Broncos vs Chargers

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    KICKOFF TIME: 8:30ET (6:30MT)

    NETWORK: ESPN

    Another turn on Monday Night Football for the Broncos takes the team to San Diego to square off with Philip Rivers and the Chargers. If there is a player in the division that is not scared of the addition of Peyton Manning to Denver, it is Rivers, who owns a 2-0 playoff record against Manning.

    Still, the Chargers have been a team in decline, and their offseason was highlighted by a loss of players and not an addition of them. Denver has had trouble containing Ryan Matthews at times, but without the threat of Vincent Jackson, that may not be the case any longer.

    Look for Denver to go into San Diego and deliver another statement in the AFC West.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 28 Chargers 13

Week 8: Saints vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 8:20 EST (6:20 MST)

    NETWORK: NBC

    No surprise that the now "Manning-led" Denver Broncos land in prime-time again, this time taking on the high-powered New Orleans Saints at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

    Boasting two of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history, with Manning and Brees, this game could become a shootout in a hurry. The swing factor could be who has the most uncoverable weapon at their discretion.

    That weapon is tight end Jimmy Graham for the Saints, who is a player that cannot be covered by any linebacker on the Denver roster. Puling a defensive back off to cover Graham only makes the job easier on the outside for Brees to strike with Colston or Henderson, and that will be Denver's downfall.

    PREDICTION: Saints 35 Broncos 28

Week 9: Broncos vs Bengals

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    KICKOFF TIME: 1:00 EST (11:00 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    Two of the most surprising AFC playoff teams from last season square off in Cincinnati, as Andy Dalton gets his first crack at dueling Peyton Manning. 

    Last season, the Broncos showed that they matched up well with the young, up-and-coming Bengals, but with two first-round draft picks, the Bengals could look very different this coming season. The big question will be how effective the Bengal rushing attack will be, and if it is not a threat, then the Broncos defense could get home against Andy Dalton and force some bad decisions.

    Manning and the Broncos get the best of the young Bengals on the road.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 24 Bengals 14

Week 10: Broncos vs Panthers

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    KICKOFF TIME: 1:00 EST (11:00 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    The Broncos take their show back on the road and look to contain the electric Cam Newton and his Panthers offense.

    Denver's rushing game will have a chance to establish some dominance against what has been a weak rush defense in recent years for Carolina. McGahee, Moreno and a runner-to-be-named-later will have their way against the Panthers, while Champ Bailey teaches Newton a hard lesson about throwing at an elite corner.

    The Broncos win another game on the road and continue to grow as an AFC playoff contender.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 31 Panthers 20

Week 11: Chargers vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:15 EST (2:15 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    The Chargers come to town in mid-November and look to try and exact revenge on Manning and the Broncos from a defeat earlier in the season.

    At this point, the Broncos wide receivers should be in lock-step with Manning and helping to control the time of possession for Denver. Even if Philip Rivers and his crop of receivers were experiencing the same kind of rapport, they won't see the field enough to demonstrate it. 

    For the first time since 2005, when Jake Plummer was calling signals for the Broncos, Denver will complete a season sweep on the Chargers.

    PREDICTION: Chargers 17 Broncos 28

Week 12: Broncos vs Chiefs

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    KICKOFF TIME: 1:00 EST (11:00 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    Manning will make his first trip to Arrowhead Stadium as a member of the Broncos right before Thanksgiving and will experience firsthand how difficult it is for the Broncos to perform there.

    No matter what people want to believe the Chiefs were improving under Romeo Crennel, and by this time, could be a serious threat to unseat the Broncos as AFC West champs. Their defense was stifling and seems to always stymie the Broncos.

    Tamba Hali will create enough pressure on Manning to cause some hurried throws that hit the ground after being ravaged by the swirling, frigid Kansas City winds.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 13 Chiefs 17

Week 13: Buccaneers vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:05 EST (2:05 MST)  

    NETWORK: FOX

    The good people at Fox will have their first crack at calling a Broncos game when the NFC South squad from Tampa Bay travels to Denver.

    New head coach Greg Schiano will experience firsthand just how important quarterback play is (if he hasn't learned already by playing Drew Brees) when he watches Manning dispatch of his transitioning secondary.

    Vincent Jackson will be a tough matchup for Denver, provided he is healthy enough to play, which is never a certainty for the oft-injured wideout. Without Jackson, the Denver defense will frustrate Josh Freeman and keep him on the run.

    PREDICTION: Buccaneers 17 Broncos 34

Week 14: Broncos vs Raiders

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    KICKOFF TIME: 8:20 EST (6:20 MST)  

    NETWORK: NFL NETWORK

    One of the reasons that Peyton Manning came to the Denver Broncos was because he saw an opportunity to win the division and get another crack at the playoffs. Even though a trip to the Black Hole is never an easy proposition, this spotlight will allow Manning and the Broncos to shine.

    Who would have guessed five years ago that a matchup between Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning would not involve the Bengals or the Colts? Such is the situation, and it will be Manning who gets the better of Palmer again in 2012.

    Pressure from Von Miller, who will be authoring another Pro Bowl-caliber season, will force turnovers for the Denver defense and make life on the Denver offense relatively easy with shortened fields.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 31 Raiders 17

Week 15: Broncos vs Ravens

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    KICKOFF TIME: 1:00 EST (11:00 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    The Broncos unfortunately receive the death sentence here being forced to travel to the East Coast and play Baltimore in the early game. Betting against the away team here is one of the biggest locks in football, and this will be no different.

    A steady diet of Ray Rice, coupled with relentless pressure by the Ravens defense is always a recipe for disaster, and Denver will suffocate trying to pick up the pace against Baltimore.

    If Denver could somehow score a victory here, they would announce that they are more than just a playoff team and might signal that they are contenders.

    PREDICTION: Broncos 13 Baltimore 23

Week 16: Browns vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:05 EST (2:05 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    Two teams going in different directions square off here, as Denver could be sealing a playoff spot or trying to make sure that Week 17 is relevant.

    Unfortunately, this could be deemed a "trap game" for Denver, as there is not much on the Browns roster that should cause problems for Denver. Still, the games are not played on paper, and Peyton Manning will need to go out and deliver a dominating performance to leave no doubt.

    It will be interesting to see which receiver, Decker or Thomas, the Browns decide to try and lock down with Joe Haden. One thing seems likely, though: Whichever they choose will probably be putting the finishing touches on a Pro Bowl season.

    PREDICTION: Browns 10 Broncos 34

Week 17: Chiefs vs Broncos

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    KICKOFF TIME: 4:15 EST (2:15 MST)  

    NETWORK: CBS

    Once again, the Kansas City Chiefs will travel to Denver to wrap up the regular season, and it could have serious playoff implications, just as it did last season.

    This time, Denver will not be backing into the game, and energized by a raucous home crowd, the team will be eager to sew up the AFC West title.

    The Denver rush defense will need to be up to the task of limiting the impact of Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis on the ground. Assuming that can be done, Manning and the offense will take care of the rest, putting Matt Prater in position to kick the winning field goal.

    PREDICTION: Chiefs 24 Broncos 27

Playoff Picture and Analysis

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    Finishing with a record of 11-5, the Denver Broncos should repeat as the AFC West champions and could potentially be in line for a first-round bye. However, it seems like Denver would most likely need to find one more victory to seriously be in discussion for a bye. Conversely, Denver could drop a game and find themselves in a sure Wild Cad weekend playoff game as well. 

    Where could Denver pick up a game to get to 12?

    Week 8 against the Saints is a home game and could easily turn in Denver's favor if New Orleans isn't able to cope with the loss of head coach Sean Payton.

    Week 15 on the road against the Ravens is also a game that Peyton Manning has made a career out of winning late in the season. There is no doubt that Denver has the advantage in the quarterback matchup, but is that enough?

    Where could Denver drop a game?

    Week 9 in Cincinnati could prove to be an extremely tough test against a quality Bengals team led by Marvin Lewis. As mentioned before, they could be helped tremendously by good drafting, but that question cannot be answered for another week.

    Week 14, traveling to Oakland is never easy, and more often than not, ends in heartache for the Broncos. Darren McFadden could be in the throes of an MVP-like season, making life hard on opposing defenses.