After losing in the playoffs the eventual Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens, who went on to sign away defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Denver's matchup against Baltimore looks to be the most appealing on the schedule.
The complete 2013 NFL schedule will be announced on April 16, according to the Sports Business Journal's John Ourand. In anticipation of the actual schedule release, here's my best mock of what Denver's 2013 schedule might look like:
Week 1 (Sept. 8): Sunday Night Football @ New York Giants (NBC).
There has been a lot of buzz about the possibility of the Ravens opening in Denver, but with the Broncos seeking revenge, Baltimore probably doesn't want to celebrate their Super Bowl victory against a team looking to dish out a beatdown. Such a scenario would probably be dubbed "undesirable" for Ravens fans by the league office.
As an alternate (or perhaps first option), the NFL can give fans Manning vs. Manning on opening weekend by having Denver travel to New Jersey for NBC's 2013 Sunday Night Football debut. After talking to a few folks close to Denver's front office, it certainly sounds like the team is expecting to open the season on the road against the Giants.
The game will draw massive ratings and the stadium will be the same location of Super Bowl XLVIII—making it even more attractive for fans.
And how about Peyton vs. Eli? Yes, please.
Week 2 (Sept. 15): Sunday afternoon vs. the Philadelphia Eagles (CBS).
After opening on SNF for the second consecutive year, the Broncos return home in Week 2 to face Chip Kelly's re-energized Eagles. At first glance, this game does not have much appeal, but if Michael Vick finds success in Kelly's offense, this showdown could turn out to be an entertaining one.
Week 3 (Sept. 22): Sunday afternoon @ the Kansas City Chiefs (CBS).
The Broncos swept the AFC West last season, going 2-0 against the Chiefs. With Andy Reid now in town, the Chiefs hope to be more competitive, especially with home-field advantage in Arrowhead.
Week 4 (Sept. 30): Monday Night Football vs. the Washington Redskins (ESPN).
Will Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III be back from injury by Week 4? If Dr. James Andrews is right, RG3 may be back sooner than expected.
The matchup of Manning vs. Griffin is exciting, but not as exciting as the return of Mike Shanahan to Denver. From 1995-08, Shanahan led the Broncos to a 138-86 (.616) record while winning a pair of Super Bowls along the way.
"It will be special," Shanahan told Chris Hall of BroncosTV at the NFL owners' meetings last week. "Anytime you spend over twenty years in an organization, you've got a lot of great memories."
"It's something you looking forward to—I just wish they weren't as good as they are right now, they've put a heck of a football team together," said a smiling Shanahan.
Week 5 (Oct. 6): Sunday Night Football vs. the Baltimore Ravens (NBC).
NBC gets the Broncos-Ravens tilt, just not to kick off the season. The Broncos' 2012 schedule was front-loaded with prime-time games, and there's a possibility of that happening again.
This game will be exciting for obvious reasons. Baltimore knocked Denver out of the playoffs in January and Dumervil will be playing in Denver for the first time in a color other than orange or blue.
Week 6 (Oct 13): Sunday afternoon @ San Diego Chargers (CBS).
The Broncos harassed Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers in 2012, despite the efforts of his best offensive lineman, Louis Vasquez, who allowed just 2.5 sacks throughout the season.
This year, Vasquez will be in orange. Have fun, Phillip.
Week 7 (Oct. 20): Bye Week.
After six weeks of football, Denver receives a bye in this mock.
Week 8 (Oct. 27): Sunday afternoon vs. the Tennessee Titans (CBS).
There is not a lot of appeal to this game, but the Titans should be able to make it interesting.
Week 9 (Nov. 4): Monday Night Football @ the Indianapolis Colts (ESPN).
Peyton Manning returns to Indy. Wonder if that will be a big storyline?
Week 10 (Nov. 10): Sunday afternoon @ the Oakland Raiders (CBS).
Another division battle. The Broncos defeated the Raiders by combined scores of 63-19 in 2012.
Week 11 (Nov. 17): Sunday afternoon against the Jacksonville Jaguars (CBS).
If only Tim Tebow had landed with the Jags, this game would have been a must-watch (assuming Jacksonville would have actually played Tebow, unlike Rex Ryan's New York Jets). Perhaps Tebow still will land in Jacksonville this offseason. Such a scenario would make this game more fun to watch.
Week 12 (Nov. 24): Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs (CBS).
Unfortunately for Kansas City, the Broncos will play them twice in 2013.
Week 13 (Nov. 28): Thanksgiving Day Football @ the Dallas Cowboys (NFLN)
Reports have already leaked that the Broncos will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys this November. The last time Denver played in Dallas Thanksgiving was in 2005, when the team defeated the Cowboys 27-24 in overtime.
Week 14 (Dec. 8): Sunday afternoon @ the New England Patriots (CBS).
This appears to be a game the league will not be able to resist making a prime-time showdown, but the Broncos and Patriots played during the day last season, and it may happen again.
Either way, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady should prove to be an epic battle once again.
Week 15 (Dec. 15): Sunday afternoon against the Oakland Raiders (CBS).
Denver's four combined games against the Chiefs and Raiders could get ugly. No need to show these games on national television.
Week 16 (Dec. 22): Sunday afternoon @ the Houston Texans (CBS).
A battle of two emerging AFC powerhouses—this game should be a good one. With safety Ed Reed now in Houston and wide receiver Wes Welker in Denver, the Broncos vs. Texans matchup becomes more appealing.
Week 17 (Dec. 29): Sunday afternoon against the San Diego Chargers (CBS).
In this mock schedule, the Broncos close out the season against a divisional foe, San Diego, at home.
That's my mock. What teams do YOU want to see the Broncos play in prime time this season? Dish out your thoughts in the comments below!