Denver Broncos: Early Win-Loss Predictions for 2012 Schedule
Football season can't get here soon enough.
Training camps will be opening across the NFL in about one month.
Once camp opens, we will learn much about the 2012 Denver Broncos and the rest of the league.
How does the offense look under new quarterback Peyton Manning?
Can the offensive line keep Manning safe in the pocket?
How will the defense look with a completely different team scheme?
Those questions will all be answered in time.
Right now, we can speculate.
Here's how the 2012 Denver Broncos season will look game-by-game.
Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
We all remember what happened the last time that the Steelers paid a visit to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
The Broncos recorded just their first playoff win since 2006 by beating Pittsburgh in overtime 29-23.
The Mile High crowd will be every bit as pumped for this opening-night game in prime time.
This will be the home opener for new Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning.
In Manning's 13-year career, he's 9-4 as a starter.
The Broncos will be too much for Pittsburgh on this night.
Broncos 28 Steelers 17
Broncos season record: 1-0
Week 2 @Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons were a disappointment in 2011.
Favored by many to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVI they limped into the playoffs with a 10-6 record and were dismantled by the eventual champion New York Giants.
The Falcons will visit Kansas City in Week 1 so the Monday Night game with Denver will be their home opener.
Running back Michael Turner will be a load for a Bronco defense that has little depth at the linebacker position.
The Broncos offense should be able to move the ball against a Falcon defense that was rated just 20th in passing defense.
It won't be enough.
Broncos 24 Falcons 30
Broncos season record: 1-1
Week 3 vs. Houston Texans
The Broncos return home for a Week 3 battle with the Houston Texans.
The Texans are as talented as anyone in the league.
Quarterback Matt Schaub returned from a season-ending foot injury in 2011 when he was having a very solid season. Schaub threw for 15 touchdowns and just six interceptions through 10 games before getting hurt.
Schaub has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate can move the chains, and wide receiver Andre Johnson is always a threat.
This game will be a fight to the finish.
A field goal for Houston will be the difference.
Broncos 27 Texans 30
Broncos season record: 1-2
Week 4 vs. Oakland Raiders
After a disappointment in Week 3, the Broncos will get back on track at home against the Raiders in Week 4.
The Raiders will be coming off a home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and quarterback Carson Palmer will be under significant pressure.
The Broncos will bottle up the Raiders' running game, and pass-rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller will force Palmer into some errant throws.
Peyton Manning will attack a Raiders defense that's in transition and struggling.
Broncos 34 Raiders 14
Broncos season record: 2-2
Week 5 @New England Patriots
The Broncos head to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough for a rematch with the team that ousted them from the playoffs in 2011.
The Bronco defense will have some revenge on its mind when they play New England.
The problem is that the Denver defense still has too many holes in it.
Peyton Manning and the offense will make this a ballgame, but in the end, the Broncos will be unable to get a stop when they need it.
Broncos 23 Patriots 31
Broncos season record: 2-3
Week 6 @San Diego Chargers
Tough early start for the Broncos.
In the first six weeks, they will be playing four playoff teams.
San Diego has playoff talent. They just seem to be unable to put it all together.
The Chargers will be challenged to make a playoff run again in 2012.
Quarterback Philip Rivers does not have a great offensive line in front of him. And if Rivers gets hurt, all bets on San Diego will be off.
Having said that, Rivers seems to save his best for the Denver Broncos, and Week 6 in San Diego will be no different.
Rivers will have one of those games that gets the home crowd excited for what may come in the postseason.
Broncos 21 Chargers 27
Broncos season record: 2-4
Week 8 vs. New Orleans Saints
The Broncos have a much needed bye in Week 7 and will be home against the New Orleans Saints for Week 8.
Peyton Manning is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league coming off a bye week.
Manning is 9-4 after a bye week and averages scoring nearly 31 points in those games.
New Orleans has their own issues. With "Bountygate" and multiple suspensions, including their head coach Sean Payton, the Saints will be walking into a hornet's nest.
The Broncos will right their season and get back on track with a big win in front of a home crowd that finally gets to see what they had envisioned when they signed Peyton Manning.
Broncos 41 Saints 17
Broncos season record: 3-4
Week 9 @Cincinnati Bengals
These aren't the same old Bengals that find new and exciting ways to lose. (Remember Brandon Stokley in 2009?)
Andy Dalton led the Bengals to a surprising 9-7 record and a playoff berth in 2011.
However, they didn't bring in much help for Dalton in the offseason.
The offense has some major holes that weren't filled, and the secondary has some issues as well.
Those aren't good traits when you're facing a Denver team that's starting to hit its stride.
Manning has a solid day, and the running game is clicking too.
Broncos 24 Bengals 13
Broncos season record: 4-4
Week 10 @Carolina Panthers
Head coach John Fox gets to return to his former home when the Broncos visit Carolina in Week 10.
Second-year quarterback Cam Newton is an exciting player, and he has some weapons on offense in wide receiver Steve Smith and running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Former San Diego Charger Mike Tolbert has also joined the Panthers and will give Newton another option.
But the Panthers are very young and inexperienced on defense.
That will be a huge problem for a team facing Peyton Manning and company.
Newton will get his numbers, but the Broncos will get the win.
Broncos 31 Panthers 20
Broncos season record: 5-4
Week 11 vs. San Diego Chargers
This game is a big one. The winner will have a leg up on the rest of the division, and the loser will need help down the stretch.
Playing at home will be a big advantage for the Broncos.
They will get retribution for the earlier loss to the Chargers and put themselves in a solid position to take control of the AFC West.
The running game with Willis McGahee is doing significant damage to the Chargers defense, and Philip Rivers is under constant duress.
The Broncos win easily, 24-7.
Broncos season record: 6-4
Week 12 @Kansas City Chiefs
Visiting Arrowhead Stadium in late November is never easy, and Week 12 for the Broncos will be no different.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a talented team, and with the weather limiting the Broncos' passing game, the home team keeps it close.
The Chiefs return quarterback Matt Cassel and running back Jamaal Charles from season-ending injuries.
Wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin are both legitimate threats and tight end Tony Moeaki is also returning from an injury.
Late in the game with the Broncos leading 13-9, the Chiefs' former running back converted to wide receiver, Dexter McCluster, gets loose.
The Broncos fall and the four-game winning streak is over.
Broncos 13 Chiefs 16
Broncos season record: 6-5
Week 13 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some internal problems on their team.
Quarterback Josh Freeman showed some promise in his second season throwing 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions. But Freeman regressed last season, throwing only 16 touchdowns and a whopping 22 interceptions.
The defense is struggling, giving up over five yards per rush in 2011. They also gave up over eight yards per pass.
This team pretty much quit last year as the season wore on, and they're clearly capable of doing that again.
The home Denver crowd gets early fireworks from Peyton Manning and Willis McGahee and then the game slows. The outcome is never in doubt.
Broncos 38 Buccaneers 13
Broncos season record: 7-5
Week 14 @Oakland Raiders
The Broncos head to the "Black Hole" in Week 14 for a rematch with the Raiders.
Oakland is a team in transition and struggling each week. They have a solid offense with running back Darren McFadden, but McFadden has never played all 16 games due to injuries.
This season, the Raiders do not have the luxury of just sending in backup Michael Bush. Bush has moved on to Chicago.
They do manage to keep the score close early with their running game, but the defense can't get key stops, and Champ Bailey picks off Carson Palmer late to preserve the win.
Broncos 24 Raiders 16
Broncos season record: 8-5
Week 15 @Baltimore Ravens
The Broncos go to Baltimore for an AFC matchup with a team that always gives them problems.
In fact, they have never won in M&T Bank Stadium.
And it won't happen this year either.
Ravens running back Ray Rice will make things very difficult for the Broncos defense.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is never spectacular. In fact, he seems to live right around the mediocre line, but he does win.
The Ravens defense is aging, and players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed must be on the downside of their careers, but they haven't shown it yet. The defense was dominant as ever last season.
The Ravens may be without Terrell Suggs which will be a significant loss, but it isn't enough for the Broncos to get a win.
The Ravens bottle up the Broncos' run game and pressure Manning into early throws and incompletions.
Broncos 17 Ravens 23
Broncos season record: 8-6
Week 16 vs. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns will visit the Mile High City two days before Christmas.
The Browns are a team without an identity, although they're trying desperately to change that.
They had a solid draft picking up both running back Trent Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Both will most likely end up starting this season.
However, it will be asking too much of the rookies to beat Denver on this day.
Champ Bailey will take a Weeden interception back for a touchdown, and the Broncos give their home town fans an early Christmas present.
Broncos 27 Browns 13
Broncos season record: 9-6
Week 17 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Broncos avenge an earlier loss to the Chiefs by knocking them off with three Matt Prater field goals.
The Chiefs were fortunate to beat the Broncos in Week 12 but they won't be that lucky again.
Imagine how good the Chiefs could be if they just had a quarterback. Matt Cassel just can't match Peyton Manning on this day.
Broncos 30 Chiefs 17
Broncos final regular season record: 10-6
The AFC West breaks down like this:
Kansas City: 9-7
San Diego: 8-8
That Broncos clinch the AFC West and a playoff spot.
Now what can they do with it?