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Injuries, Brutal Early-Season Schedule Present Denver Broncos with Uphill Battle

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Injuries, Brutal Early-Season Schedule Present Denver Broncos with Uphill Battle
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The NFL recently released its 2014 regular-season schedule, and one thing is clear: There’s no time for a Super Bowl hangover in Denver.

The Broncos will face six 2013 playoff teams in their first eight games. Of those eight opponents, four boasted top-10 offenses in 2013, per Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. Five boasted top-12 defenses. Three competed for conference championships. One won the Super Bowl.

While this stacked slate could provide a good test for a Denver team that enjoyed a relatively relaxed 2013 schedule, the Broncos’ ability to weather this early-season storm could hinge on a major factor not wholly under their control: the recoveries of injured starters.

Beginning in the preseason and carrying on through the postseason, the 2013 Broncos saw one starter after another succumb to season-ending injuries. By the time Denver took the field for Super Bowl XLVIII, it was without the top member of its offensive line, front seven and secondary, in addition to several other notable players.

Can the injured Broncos stars return to form for the start of the 2014 season? The answer to that question could make a real difference in the team’s record through eight games (and, as a result, its potential playoff seeding).

With that impact in mind, let’s take a look at the current health status of five key Broncos starters and project their chances to return for Week 1.

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