Denver Broncos 2015 Schedule: AFC West Matchup Preview
By Leora Ruzin
Peyton Manning meets Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers after defeating the AFC West rival in the 2013 Playoffs Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos barely had time to grieve for the painful loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. In the span of one day, the hopes of the 2014 season ending in a Super Bowl victory were lost and the Broncos were on the verge of significant changes. In what felt like “Operation: Clean House”, the Broncos were looking at needing virtually every coaching position filled and free agents were flying the coop faster than you can say Pot Roast. Many fans were left (and some still are) scratching their heads in disbelief. Where did everybody go and is Peyton Manning, the future HOF QB for the Broncos, coming back?
In the span of the last three months, the organization has been left with more questions than answers as the 2015 season rapidly approaches. Yes, Peyton Manning is returning but in what capacity? Exactly how many Tight Ends does this team need? Will Demaryius Thomas get that contract that he has rightfully earned? Many of these questions will remain unanswered as the organization pools over available prospects for the upcoming draft.
One question has finally been answered tonight, however. Media outlets, fans and those of us at Predominantly Orange have been patiently waiting for this:
At first glance, comparing this schedule to last season is like comparing apples to elephants. Instead of a Week 4 bye last season, this seasons bye falls on a much more amiable Week 7. There are five prime time games, including a Thursday night game and a Monday night rematch with the Cincinnati Bengals. Then there is, of course, the crucial AFC West division matchups.
What makes the division matchups for this season so special in relation to previous seasons? One would have to peel away the typical layers and examine why the AFC West as we all know it will be changed forever by the time the season is over. This could very well be Manning’s last season in the NFL against division opponents who seemingly stole the majority of the Broncos free agents.
The construct of the division itself could change forever if the City of Los Angeles forces the hands of both the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders at the end of the season. Los Angeles is so desperate to get an NFL team back in the city that they are building a stadium out in the middle of nowhere in hopes to entice the Chargers or Raiders (or both?) to chip in some bucks for the facility. San Diego and Oakland have made it aware that their respective stadiums are in dire need of repair and are all but pushing these teams out of town if new stadiums aren’t built. Could the Raiders and Chargers end up sharing this new stadium in LA, effectively pushing one of them out of the division altogether?
Week 2 @ KC (9/17 Prime Time)- Out of the four teams in the division, the Chiefs have kept the most quiet. Alex Smith is expected to remain the starting QB and Andy Reid will continue to call the shots on the sidelines. On the surface, this team could be the most sound and stable team in the division. The Broncos have owned the Chiefs for the last two seasons, and it is beneficial to get the away game taken care of early in the season. Going into Arrowhead in the winter is not much fun.
Week 5 @ Oak (10/11)- The Raiders continue to struggle with finding that aggressive identity that made them such a scary contender in the late 90’s and early 00’s. While the Raider faithful continue to support their team, it is no surprise that the team is a shell of it’s former self and what used to be called the formidable “Black Hole” is now more like a bottomless pit. The only thing the Broncos should be afraid of here is making it out of Oakland without getting stabbed in the parking lot.
Week 7- Bye (where are the San Diego Chargers?)
Week 10 vs KC (11/15)- This game comes off a likely brutal contest in Indianapolis against the Colts. It would be hard to imagine the Broncos losing this one at home but anything can happen in the middle of November.
Week 13 @ SD (12/6)- Yup, Week 13. Nearing the end of the regular season, the Broncos finally meet up with questionably the most hated team of the division. San Diego QB Philip Rivers with his bolo ties sends pangs of anger through the veins of every fan in Broncos Country. All-purpose OL Orlando Franklin jumped ship and landed with the Chargers during free agency. But, what is this rumor that Philip Rivers will walk if the Chargers take up residence elsewhere?
Week 14 vs Oak (12/13)- Welcome back, Jack Del Rio! Hopefully you didn’t get used to the warmth of California! December games in Denver are always a great way to witness the craziness that is Colorado weather. It is this unknown element that could have the biggest impact. Another unknown will be what level of activity the Broncos can expect from Peyton Manning. It would make sense at this point to bench him if the Broncos are in a position that resting him will not negatively affect the outcome of the game.
Week 17 vs SD (1/3)- When was the last time the regular season ended in January? This game could end up being the single game that determines playoff seeding. Then again, it could be a moot point if the Broncos manage to lock up the division already. This is a game that could easily be flexed to a prime time game. A prime time game, in Colorado, in January? The painful memories are almost too much to handle. Brrrrrr.
When this season is over, the AFC West could be without Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and maybe even the Chargers or Raiders. It will truly be the end of an era, one that has seen the Broncos dominate the division, year in and year out. Would the addition of a new team, say the Arizona Cardinals, breathe new life into a division that is often thought to be too soft? Only time will tell.