5 Must-Watch Matchups on the Denver Broncos' 2014 Schedule

Jonathan SchlosserContributor IIApril 25, 2014

5 Must-Watch Matchups on the Denver Broncos' 2014 Schedule

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    Joe Mahoney

    The stage has been set for another year of NFL fireworks, and nowhere was the schedule more highly anticipated than in Denver. Before the confetti had even stopped falling at the Super Bowl, fans were firmly looking toward 2014, wondering when the Broncos could have their revenge.

    Denver fans wondered what the path back to the Super Bowl—for a chance to avenge such a lopsided game—would look like.

    On every schedule, you have your cupcakes. These are games you can't overlook because parity is huge in the NFL, and anyone can win. It's always going to be that way. But you definitely have low-caliber games that no one is dying to see.

    On the other end of the spectrum, you have matchups that most fans wish would take place tomorrow. They can't get here soon enough. These are the games that promise to have you on the edge of your seat—the games that make you feel giddy and nervous all week. You can check out the complete schedule here.

    The following games are ranked based on three things:

    1. The quality of the opponent.
    2. The impact on the overall record/playoff chances.
    3. The extras including things like rivalries, individual matchups and, of course, revenge.

Home Against San Francisco 49ers, October 19

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez

    This one is all about the quality of the opponent. The 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL and looking to make a playoff run. They won't have that much of an impact on Denver's season, per se, but they will show fans what the Broncos are made of. Playing top-quality competition is a great way to prepare for the playoffs, and this game brings that.

    To some degree, this game is also huge because it's going to be can't-miss TV. There are so many big names and matchupsfrom Peyton Manning going against a defense led by Patrick Willis to Colin Kaepernick giving the revamped Denver defense a serious test. It should be the most exciting game of the week, regardless of the outcome.

At New York Jets, October 12

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    The Jets have definitely added a lot to their roster. They had a good defense already, and now they have Mike Vick and Chris Johnson to go on the offensive side of the ball.

    That alone doesn't get this matchup on the list, though. The Jets are still probably no more than an 8-8 team.

    What gets it here is Eric Decker. He was a beast for Denver last year, with more than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.

    And now he's wearing green and white. He'll have a chip on his shoulder, especially since a team executive told ESPN Denver's Cecil Lammey that Emmanuel Sanders is “simply better than Eric Decker.”

Home Against Indianapolis Colts, September 7

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    Michael Conroy

    This is Week 1, and it's a heavyweight fight. The Colts were already a formidable opponent, beating Denver when the two met in 2013. They've added a big piece since then, bringing in Hakeem Nicks. They've also made sure to re-sign players like Vontae Davis and Ahmad Bradshaw. Throw in the fact that the game is against Peyton Manning's former team, and you have a battle that's worth watching.

    On top of that, it guarantees that one team that expects to make the playoffs has to start out the year with a loss.

At New England Patriots, November 2

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    Steven Senne

    It seems like Denver always goes to New England during the regular season, but maybe I just have a short memory. In any case, this is a prime matchup, and it's a classic: Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. It does not really get much better than that.

    This year, you also get the return of Revis Island, this time wearing the red and blue of the Patriots. Seeing how he fares against Denver's explosive offense will be incredible to watch.

    To throw an added wrinkle into the mix, Aqib Talib goes back to New England after bolting for Denver. He's basically playing the same role that Wes Welker played last year.

    Bill Belichick will be thrilled to see him, and the two are sure to meet at midfield to smile and reminisce about the good old days before the game.

At Seattle Seahawks, September 21

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    Paul Sancya

    The NFL isn't just giving this game to the fans once; the league is giving it twice. Seattle and Denver get a pair of grudge matches, with one in the preseason when the Seahawks come to Denver to get booed loudly, no doubt.

    The game that actually holds the most interest, though, is the regular-season game in Seattle. The Seahawks are (almost) unbeatable at home. The fans are going to roar to show their support. It will be the closest the Broncos will get during the year to replicating what they faced in the Super Bowl.

    This is at the top for all of the obvious reasons. Because we can't wait to see what Richard Sherman says before the game. Because Denver got manhandled last year. Because it may be the most hyped game of the year until the Super Bowl comes back around.

    For Denver fans, though, this one is huge because it will show if all of the offseason moves paid off. It's no secret that Denver has been getting tougher and meaner on defense. Has it been enough? Can the Broncos match the firepower that the Seahawks bring? Can they take just enough of Seattle's attitude to be more than elite?

    This may only be the third game of the year, but fans will learn a lot about what Denver is going to bring this season after this one.

    And I'm not going to say it's both a Super Bowl repeat and a Super Bowl preview, because that would be ludicrous, but...