The biggest offseason event in the NFL community that falls between the scouting combine and the draft is undoubtedly the release of the full regular season schedules.
For months, fans wait eagerly to see their team's "road map" for the upcoming season, and almost immediately begin to predict potential records and wins/losses.
For the 2009 schedules, today was that day. The schedules are public, so let the predictions begin.
The Denver Broncos' 2009 schedule looks like this:
Week seven is the Broncos bye week.
The season closes with a game at home against Oakland, to Philadelphia for one, then back to Denver to close out the season against the Chiefs on January 3, 2010.
Three games will be shown in primetime, the Thanksgiving night game on NFL Network, along with week six in San Diego and week nine against the Steelers, both on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
Taken at face value, this schedule is a challenging one.
The team must use this time to jell in their new lineups (especially on defense) and Josh McDaniels must use the first three games to get his playbook finalized and game-tested.
Do not be surprised if the Broncos emerge the first three games with a 3-0 record. After that, it will get harder.
Then, week five will bring the moment many people have been waiting for. Josh McDaniels against his mentor, Bill Belichick. A straight up battle between teacher and pupil. McDaniels will be looking to perform better than his fellow former New England coordinators. Mangini and Crennel are a combined 1-7 against their former boss.
The Broncos will then get their first look at the Chargers before taking a much needed week off.
I think 4-2 is a good goal for the team going into the bye week, and 5-1 would be an accomplishment. They must take advantage of the easy beginning and start 3-0. If they are able to go 1-2 against the Cowboys, Patriots, and Chargers, it should be considered a success.
As was mentioned before, week four on will be a marathon. Week four begins a nine-week stretch during which the Broncos will play teams who finished 2008 with a record at or above .500.
The team will finally get their respite after their short-week Thanksgiving game against the Giants. I think the best the team could do up to week 12 is 7-4. If they hope to be 10-6 by the season's end, they must find a way to beat the Ravens, Redskins, and Chargers.
McDaniels will finally get a look at his former project, Matt Cassel, when the Broncos play in Kansas City in week 13. After the Giants and before the Colts, that game will be a must-win.
After the Colts, the team comes home to play the Raiders in another game they must have. Then Brian Dawkins will return to the City of Brotherly Love for a much- anticipated encore in Philly.
The season will end in Denver against the Chiefs. The Broncos could very well be locked in a playoff battle with the Chargers, and that game could be a win-and-in situation.
Looking at the "dark side," that is the schedule of the Chargers, a Bronco fan should feel good about the season's final "sprint".
While the Broncos have the Eagles and then the Chiefs to end the season, the Chargers will finish with two tough games, at Tennessee and home against Washington. They must also play the entire AFC North and NFC East.
Based on their schedule, I see the Denver Broncos finishing 2009 with a 9-7 or 10-6 record. Look for the team to use their difficult schedule to their own advantage to build chemistry and strength, and hopefully to be well prepared for their first playoff appearance in three years.