May 08, 2020 2:10 AM

Broncos announce 2020 schedule

Posted May 08, 2020 2:10 AM

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the second consecutive season, Broncos Country will have to be patient.

The Broncos announced their 2020 schedule on Thursday evening, and the team's season-opening game falls at the very end of the Week 1 slate.

Denver will host the AFC finalist Tennessee Titans in the second game of a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader on ESPN to wrap up the season's first weekend.

The Broncos' matchup against the Titans is one of three prime-time games the Broncos are slated to play in 2020.

The season opener is one of Denver's six games against 2019 playoff teams, as the Broncos also face the Patriots (Week 5), Chiefs (Week 7, Week 13), Saints (Week 12) and Bills (Week 15).

After playing two of its first three games at home, the Broncos will head out for two consecutive road games against the Jets in Week 4 on "Thursday Night Football" and against the Patriots in Week 5.

The Broncos have three two-game road stretches, but they do not have one of the league's dreaded three-game road trips. Denver, though, plays consecutive home games just twice during the 2020 slate. They are scheduled to play the Chiefs and Dolphins at home in Weeks 6 and 7, consecutively, and the Chargers and Saints at Empower Field at Mile High in Weeks 11 and 12.

As Drew Lock, Von Miller and Co. aim to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season, they may need to improve upon their 3-3 division record from 2019. Denver should have time for its young offense to jell before those divisional matchups begin. The Broncos don't play their first division game until the Week 7 matchup against the Chiefs and play five of their six division games from Week 10 until the end of the year.

Two of those matchups — at the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10 and at the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 — will mark the Broncos' first regular-season trips to new stadiums. The Raiders are moving into Allegiant Stadium after heading to Las Vegas from Oakland following the 2019 season, while the Chargers are simply transitioning to a more permanent home.

The Broncos are slated to play in the Chargers' home stadium, SoFi Stadium, in Week 3 of the preseason when they travel to play the Rams. Denver will play San Francisco and Chicago at home to begin the preseason before going on the road to face the Rams and Cardinals.

The Broncos' games against the Raiders and Chargers aren't the only ones that should attract interest. Denver's second matchup against the Chiefs, a Week 13 prime-time matchup, is the Broncos' first "Sunday Night Football" appearance since 2017. All "Sunday Night Football" games from Weeks 5-16 are eligible to be flexed out of the Sunday night time slot.

The Broncos' divisional games, though, are just a piece of the puzzle.

Denver's schedule is comprised of six games against divisional opponents, four games against the AFC East, four games against the NFC South and a pair of games against second-place finishers from the AFC North and AFC South.

The Broncos have not played the NFC South since 2016, when they went 3-1 against the division. This time, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers (Week 3) and Drew Brees and the Saints (Week 12) could provide tough tests in Denver.

While most of the Broncos' slate is finalized, two of Denver's late-season games have not been finalized. Their Week 15 and Week 16 games against the Bills and Chargers could be played on either Saturday or Sunday of the respective weeks. Those finalized dates and times will be announced later in the season.

The Broncos' bye week is slated for Week 8.

Here's a quick look at each game on the Broncos' regular-season schedule:

Week 1: Broncos vs. Titans (Monday, Sept. 14, 8:10 p.m. MT, ESPN)

The Broncos meet last year's AFC finalist in Week 1, and the Titans owe some of their success to Denver's 16-0 win when the teams met last season. Ryan Tannehill replaced Marcus Mariota late in that game, and the Titans went on to win nine of their next 12 games to reach the AFC Championship. The Broncos will have to stand up against running back Derrick Henry, who was dominant late in the year, but new addition Jurrell Casey could help in his first game against his former team.

Week 2: Broncos at Steelers (Sunday, Sept. 20, 11 a.m. MT, CBS)

The Broncos catch the Steelers early in the schedule, which could prove to be fortuitous as Ben Roethlisberger returns from an elbow injury that cost him almost all of the 2019 season. Shelby Harris picked off Roethlisberger in the end zone to secure a 24-17 win in 2018. The Broncos haven't played in Pittsburgh since 2015.

Week 3: Broncos vs. Buccaneers (Sunday, Sept. 27, 2:25 p.m. MT, FOX)

Denver beat the Buccaneers in Tampa in 2016, but this is a much different team. Tom Brady now holds the reins in "Tompa Bay," and tight end Rob Gronkowski has returned from retirement to help his former Patriot teammate. He may need it. Brady has a losing record against just one NFL team: Denver. He's 8-9 against the Broncos, including postseason games.

Week 4: Broncos at Jets (Thursday, Oct. 1, 6:20 p.m. MT, NFL Network)

The Broncos return to MetLife Stadium for the first time since 2018, when they were run over by the Jets. New York rushed for 323 yards in that 34-16 win. Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold will look to extend the Jets' streak to two games over the Broncos, but Denver was successful in its last "Thursday Night Football" road game. They beat the Cardinals 45-10 in 2018.

Week 5: Broncos at Patriots (Sunday, Oct. 11, 11 a.m. MT, CBS)

After a 10-day layoff, the Broncos will face the Patriots for the first time in the post-Brady era. Bill Belichick will still be the coach, but who will be at quarterback for New England? That's the major question, and it could decide whether the Broncos get their first win over the Patriots since the 2015 postseason.

Week 6: Broncos vs. Dolphins (Sunday, Oct. 18, 2:05 p.m. MT, CBS)

The Broncos' revenge tour against the AFC East will continue against the Dolphins, who beat the Broncos 35-9 in 2017. Denver is 1-6 in its last seven games against AFC East teams. Could fifth-overall pick Tua Tagovailoa be leading the charge for the 'Fins by this point?

Week 7: Broncos vs. Chiefs (Sunday, Oct. 25, 2:25 p.m. MT, CBS)

The Broncos have lost nine consecutive games to the Chiefs, but they've been close at home the last few years — excluding last season's 30-6 loss. The Broncos lost a one-possession game in 2018 after holding a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, and the 2016 matchup was decided in the waning moments of overtime. For the first time, the Broncos' new offensive additions will be put to the test against the best of the AFC West. The Chiefs have won the division in each of the previous four seasons.

Week 8: BYE WEEK

Week 9: Broncos at Falcons (Sunday, Nov. 8, 11 a.m. MT, CBS)

This game was supposed to be in London — unofficially, but still — and will now take place in Atlanta. The Broncos haven't been to Mercedes-Benz Stadium before, and they'll try to snag a road win against a team that is trying to return to the playoffs after finishing 7-9 the last two seasons. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones remain the biggest threats. The Broncos last played the Falcons in 2016, and Atlanta won the game and later made the Super Bowl that season. The 23-16 Atlanta win was Paxton Lynch's first career start and one of just four he made with the Broncos.

Week 10: Broncos at Raiders (Sunday, Nov. 15, 2:05 p.m. MT, CBS)

Denver's first look at Allegiant Stadium and the Las Vegas Raiders could be a quarterback toss-up. Will Derek Carr keep hold of the starting job, or will Marcus Mariota replace him in the lineup? This game will also be the first matchup between former Alabama teammates Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy. The Raiders passed on Jeudy to take Ruggs with the 12th-overall pick – will Jeudy make them pay in this game? The Broncos haven't beaten the Raiders on the road since 2015, but maybe a change in scenery will help.

Week 11: Broncos vs. Chargers (Sunday, Nov. 22, 2:05 p.m. MT, CBS)

There will be other story lines — we'll get to those in a second — but Chris Harris Jr.'s return to Denver will garner headlines this week. Harris, who was named to the NFL's All-Decade team, spent the first nine years of his career in Denver before signing with the Chargers this offseason. The crowd's reaction will be interesting to watch, to say the least. Melvin Gordon III will also make his first appearance against his former team. The Broncos, though, must be focused on getting the win over getting even. Denver has won three of the last four games in this series, and this one could be critical in securing a playoff spot.

Week 12: Broncos vs. Saints (Sunday, Nov. 29, 2:05 p.m. MT, FOX)

Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are the premier players on New Orleans' roster, but Emmanuel Sanders will garner the headlines. He'll return to Empower Field at Mile High for the first time since being traded to the 49ers last season and subsequently signing with the Saints. This could be the Broncos' toughest game of the entire season, as New Orleans is among the favorites to make a push for the Super Bowl.

Week 13: Broncos at Chiefs (Sunday, Dec. 6, 6:20 p.m. MT, NBC)

The Broncos' first "Sunday Night Football" game since 2017 will be a major test. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 23-3 in the teams' last meeting at Arrowhead. In Lock's second trip to his hometown, can he perform better? He and the offense struggled mightily in 2019. The Broncos will also need to contain Travis Kelce. He remains a thorn in the team's side, as he caught 11 passes for 142 yards in the snow last season.

Week 14: Broncos at Panthers (Sunday, Dec. 13, 11 a.m. MT, CBS)

Head Coach Vic Fangio will return to Carolina, where he served his first stint as an NFL defensive coordinator from 1995-98. The Panthers are expected to be in rebuilding mode in 2020, but Teddy Bridgewater could still provide a challenge. And after a tough home game against the Saints and a Sunday night matchup in Arrowhead, a trip to the east coast for an 11 a.m. MT kick could pose issues.

Week 15: Broncos vs. Bills (Saturday/Sunday, Dec. 19/20, time/network TBD)

The Bills added to their offense this offseason when they traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and they're considered to be favorites in the AFC East following Brady's departure. The Bills were dominant on defense against the Broncos in 2019, as Denver mustered just a field goal in a 20-3 loss. This game is just another reminder of why the Broncos stocked up on offensive weapons for 2020.

Week 16: Broncos at Chargers (Saturday/Sunday, Dec. 26/27, time/network TBD)

If the earlier Raiders game could have a quarterback watch, this one definitely will. Tyrod Taylor is expected to begin the season as the Chargers' starter, but they spent the sixth-overall pick on former quarterback Justin Herbert. If the season isn't going well in Los Angeles, it's possible Herbert could see some playing time in this matchup.

Week 17: Broncos vs. Raiders (Sunday, Jan. 3, 2:25 p.m. MT, CBS)

For the second consecutive year, the Broncos will finish the regular season with a home game against the Raiders. Last year, Shelby Harris knocked down a pass on a two-point conversion attempt to secure the win. If all goes to plan, this time around the Broncos won't be done playing football quite yet and will be preparing for a postseason appearance.

Broncos Release