The post-NFL draft event not called training camp that has recently been gaining attention is the release of the 2021 NFL schedule. This upcoming schedule comes with 17 intense and potentially historic matchups. The season kicks off in Tampa Bay with America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, taking on the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. It continues with many potential classics including Bills vs. Chiefs (AFC Championship rematch), Rams vs. Lions (Matthew Stafford taking on his former team), Jaguars vs. Jets (the first of many battles between 2021 1st overall pick Trevor Lawrence and 2nd overall pick Zach Wilson), Bills vs. Buccaneers (Tom Brady vs Josh Allen), and many more. But what about the Denver Broncos? Who are they lined up against this year? Realistically, how many wins might they get in 2021? Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Overview and Strength of Schedule
After finishing 2020 with a saddening record of 5-11, the Broncos were granted a relatively easy schedule in 2021. The Broncos play just 4 teams (in 5 games) that finished with a record above .500 in 2020: the Ravens, Steelers, Browns, and Chiefs. It’s safe to say that the AFC West vs AFC North draw this year will bring some tough competition to the Mile High City. Additionally, Denver plays in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL: the AFC West. Filled with bright young stars at the quarterback position and the fastest and most explosive wide receivers in the league, the Broncos will have no easy task when they take on the Chargers, Raiders, and Chiefs two times each. However, the rest of Denver’s schedule ranks among the easier ones for a reason as they take on four of the bottom six teams in 2020: the Jaguars, Jets, Eagles, and Bengals. These four teams are widely known to struggle with injury problems, a lack of depth, or just poor play. Now, let’s look at some numbers–schedule strength rankings from multiple NFL analysts and other organizations. CBS Sports has the Broncos tied with the Miami Dolphins for the 5th-easiest schedule in the NFL. NBC Sports ranked the Broncos’ schedule as 9th-easiest. Pro Football Network stated that the Broncos possessed the 4th-easiest schedule in the league. The strength of schedule rankings goes on and on, but they all have one thing in common. All of these rankings from sports organizations placed the Broncos in the top 10 for the easiest schedules in the NFL. But if you take a quick glance at the schedule, you may notice it seems tougher than the numbers say. How will the Broncos take advantage of this “easy” schedule? How many wins will they get? What can we expect from them?
As analysts and organizations rank the strength of schedules throughout the NFL, they also attempt to predict the records of NFL teams in the upcoming season. While, in the past, some analysts have miraculously failed at doing so, it’s always beneficial to get a sense of the analysis of other outlets. So, let’s take a look at some record predictions by analysts and sports organizations for the Denver Broncos’ 2021 season. To start, Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann, an analyst for Mile High Report, predicts that the Broncos will finish the season with a 6-11 record. Similarly, Braulio Perez of Fansided took the 6-11 route when predicting the Broncos’ record. Ryan Gosling, who works at Pro Football Network, was a bit more optimistic than the first two analysts as he predicted that Denver would finish with an 8-9 record. Lastly, Ryan O’Halloran, a well-known Denver Broncos reporter from The Denver Post, predicted that the Broncos will have their first winning season since 2016 with a 9-8 record. If the schedule is so easy, then how come so many inside analysts and writers are chalking up low records for the Broncos? There’s a simple answer to this question: quarterback. The uncertainty at the quarterback position is what worries most analysts when trying to predict the Broncos’ 2021 record. Drew Lock had a regression in 2020 and is currently on the hot seat, so most people predicting records are not very confident in him. The Broncos brought in 6-year veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who most recently played with the Carolina Panthers, to compete with Lock. However, we will have to see how that pans out in training camp. It’s really the uncertainty at quarterback that’s throwing all of the analysts off.
Now that we’ve looked over multiple record predictions from other analysts, let’s move forward with my record prediction for the 2021 Denver Broncos. You didn’t come here for me to regurgitate what other analysts say. You came here for my opinions and thoughts. My 2021 Broncos’ record prediction will be listed below:
Week 1: @ Giants – L
Week 2: @ Jaguars – W
Week 3: vs Jets – W
Week 4: vs Ravens – L
Week 5: @ Steelers – L
Week 6: vs Raiders – W
Week 7: @ Browns (TNF) – L
Week 8: vs Washington – W
Week 9: @ Cowboys – W
Week 10: vs Eagles – W
Week 11: vs Chargers – W
Week 12: @ Chiefs – L
Week 13: vs Lions – W
Week 14: vs Bengals – W
Week 15: @ Raiders – L
Week 16: @ Chargers – L
Week 17: vs Chiefs – L
Final Record Prediction: 9-8
The Most Anticipated Broncos Games of 2021
The 2021 NFL schedule release brings massive waves of excitement and anticipation. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for the kickoff against the Giants in week 1. Let me go through my picks for the most anticipatory Broncos games in 2021.
Week 1: @ Giants
The most crucial game for the Broncos, in my respective opinion, would come first thing in the season against the New York Giants. This will be a battle of two quarterbacks trying to prove themselves as starters for the future of their franchise. It will be quite an interesting matchup. I say this is the most crucial game because it is extremely beneficial to start out with early-season momentum. Time and time again, winning in the first couple of weeks has proven that you will have a large amount of momentum later in the season. A large amount of momentum translates to more wins later in the season. It’s also extremely crucial because of the strength of the Giants. They are a very solid team with potentially division-champion implications. If Denver can manage to defeat them, it will prove that they are good to go against above-average future opponents.
Week 7: @ Browns (TNF)
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would you choose a game against the Browns as ‘anticipatory’?” I don’t blame you for thinking that. The Cleveland Browns are, no doubt, Super Bowl contenders with an elite roster. They have the best runningback duo in the NFL, a top 10 quarterback, the best offensive line in the league, as well as unlimited strength on defense. Looking on paper, the Browns should be considered a top 3 team in this football league. So wouldn’t this just be a blowout? Not necessarily. The Broncos, as proven against the Miami Dolphins in 2020, aren’t ones to back down against nearly impossible odds. In 2020, the Broncos were tasked with taking on a Dolphins team coming off of a 5-game win streak. They were undoubtedly red hot at that point in the season. However, even with an injured squad and questionable offensive play, the Broncos were able to overcome the Dolphins for a win. Now, I am fully aware that the 2020 Miami Dolphins and the 2021 Cleveland Browns are incomparable. However, it’s just the sheer principle of beating the odds when they tower up against you. I believe that Denver will put up a much larger fight in this game than most would come to think.
Week 8: vs Washington
This, like week 1 against the Giants, is a very crucial game. Every game against a team in the NFC East will be extremely crucial for the Broncos. This is one that I am especially excited about because of the matchups. It is no secret that the offense for the Washington Football Team is underwhelming. They, like the Broncos, don’t currently have a long-term answer at quarterback. Due to this fact, they went out and signed long-time NFL starter and backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their offensive weapons aren’t very wow-factor outside of Terry McLaurin and potentially Antonio Gibson. With the strength of that Denver defense, I am really pumped to see how Vic Fangio can exploit the Washington offense. I assume that this game will be close because both opponents are about as evenly matched as they can get. A lack of firepower on offense but both have extremely powerful defenses. I am excited about all Broncos games in the upcoming season but this one against Washington is definitely one to look out for.
To recap, I think that the Broncos will have several crucial games in the upcoming regular season. It will take some above-average quarterback play from Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater to grant the Broncos their first winning season since 2016. Many analysts have the Broncos coming out of 2021 with a below .500 record. I would oppose this as I predict the Broncos will finish with a 9-8 record. The divisional games will be exciting, the AFC North matchups will be challenging, and the entirety of the schedule will be anticipatory. One thing to clear up, though. We are still very early in the offseason. Many things could change in training camp as we saw last year with the bombardment of injuries for the Broncos. Consider this a “way too early” record and schedule prediction for the Broncos.