Forecasting 5 Toughest Games on Denver Broncos' 2012 Schedule

Clint DalyContributor IIJune 21, 2012

Forecasting 5 Toughest Games on Denver Broncos' 2012 Schedule

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    The 2012 NFL season is rapidly approaching.

    Free agency and the draft are now both complete and players have been participating in organized team workouts. Training camp is just over a month away.

    The 2012 Denver Broncos are going to have a completely different look.

    Gone are Tim Tebow and the conservative run-first offense.

    Peyton Manning will be bringing his ability to stretch the field and exploit matchups to a team in dire need of scoring more points. The Broncos were ranked just 25th in scoring in 2011 with 19.3 points per game.

    The 2012 Broncos will be facing a brutal schedule. They open the season with two prime-time games and will play five games in prime time overall.

    Denver's opponents went 139-117 (.543) in 2011, making their schedule the second toughest in the league behind only the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

    So which games are going to be the most challenging?

    Here are the five toughest games on the 2012 Denver Broncos schedule.

5. Week 1 Pittsburgh Steelers

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    While the Denver Broncos have made some key changes on their roster, the Pittsburgh Steelers will return the majority of their 2011 team intact.

    The same team that the Broncos beat in the 2011 AFC Wild Card Game.

    The same team that has had to answer questions all offseason about losing to the Broncos in overtime.

    Think they won't have a little revenge on their mind when the two teams meet on Sunday, Sept. 9?

    Think again.

    Ben Roethlisberger and company will be coming to Denver with more than just pride and bragging rights on the line. As early as the matchup is, it does have some playoff implications for the AFC.

    Peyton Manning, welcome to Denver.

4. Week 3 Houston Texans

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    Another game that will have early playoff implications will be the contest on Sept. 23 against the Texans in Denver.

    The Houston Texans were 10-6 in 2011 and were beaten in the playoffs by the Baltimore Ravens.

    They feature a strong rushing game behind running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

    Matt Schaub is getting better every season as long as he can stay healthy.

    The defense lost Mario Williams to free agency. Of course they lost Williams early last season to an injury and the defense was excellent.

    Former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will be bringing a very talented team to Denver.

    This will be a great test for the Broncos.

3. Week 5 New England Patriots

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    This game will not be played in prime time but it will be one of the top games on the slate for Week 5.

    The New England Patriots eliminated the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional playoffs last year. The Patriots beat the Broncos 45-10 and New England quarterback Tom Brady threw for six touchdowns.

    The Patriots went on to Super Bowl XLVI where they were narrowly defeated by the New York Giants.

    That alone would make this must-see television.

    Now add Peyton Manning to the mix.

    His games against the Patriots are legendary.

    Manning versus Brady.

    And after that playoff debacle last year, the Broncos defense has something to prove.

2. Week 12 Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Broncos travel to Kansas City for a game with the Chiefs on Nov. 25 in what could be a game that determines the AFC West champion.

    Returning for the Chiefs will be quarterback Matt Cassel, running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Former running back Dexter McCluster has been moved to wide receiver, giving Cassel yet another weapon.

    The Chiefs are always tough at home. The Arrowhead Stadium crowd will be at a fever pitch.

    And the Broncos always struggle in Kansas City. They are just 6-14 playing at Arrowhead in the regular season over the past 20 seasons.

    Peyton Manning is 3-1 playing at Kansas City in his career at Indianapolis.

    Let's hope he brings that success to Denver.

1. Week 15 Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens came within a field goal of being the AFC representative in Super Bowl XLVI, losing 23-20 to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

    Baltimore went 12-4 in 2011. It was 8-0 at home.

    The Ravens defense had 48 quarterback sacks in 2011.

    The Broncos visit M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 16 in a game that should have serious playoff implications.

    Denver is 3-6 all time versus the Ravens and 0-5 when playing them on the road.

    The Denver Broncos will have to make history in order to get a win in Baltimore.