In a few weeks, we should learn all about the 2018 NFL schedule. Thus, I thought I’d put together a few thoughts about what might be reasonable to expect out of it.
These are the opponents the Broncos will face in 2018:
- Home: AFC West rivals, Steelers, Browns, Texans, Seahawks, Rams
- Away: AFC West rivals, Ravens, Bengals, Jets, 49ers, Cardinals
The Broncos could see a reduction in prime time games.
Let’s get the most painful out of the way: last year’s 5-11 record will not bode well for getting the type of marquee games that the Broncos have normally been accustomed to. Since 2012, the Broncos have had either five or six games in prime time. But this year, I would not be surprised if it comes close to matching the low lights of 2011, where they only got the late night Monday Night opener, and one Thursday night game coming off the rock bottom 2010 season by Broncos standards.
The curses (and benefits) of East Coast bias
It’s not fair, but it’s the truth: teams within the highly populous portion of the East Coast between Boston and DC will always be overrepresented in marquee broadcasts. Last year, that worked in the Broncos’ favor when it drew both the AFC East and the NFC East (the latter of which also contains the overwhelming broadcast favorite in the Cowboys). But this year, the Broncos draw the NFC West as interconference foes. Simply put, East Coast viewers tend to yawn on games in the West in general, a phenomenon that goes far beyond the NFL, and the schedulers will probably factor that in their prime time decisions.
But there are a couple of potential benefits for the Broncos. The heavy concentration of opponents in the West divisions will mean the team will only have four games (@BAL, @CIN, @NYJ, @KC) that could potentially be played in the early Sunday slot, before 2 PM MT. This is because the NFL has a strict ban on kicking off games before noon local time.
What this means is that you’ll see a lot of Broncos games either at 2:25 MT, if their game is on the doubleheader network, or 2:05 if it’s on the singleheader network. And one more potential benefit from this, if the Broncos can greatly recover in 2018, is that they could play their way into being the featured late game of the week on the doubleheader network if the planned featured late game turns out to be a dog from one or both of the team underachieving. (Unless that team is the Cowboys–they still got five featured late games in 2015 despite going 4-12.)
Will the Broncos’ streaks of opening and closing week home games end?
From 2005-2010, Broncos brass complained regularly about having to always open on the road. This was due to a scheduling quirk involving CBS’s airing of the US Open in tennis on Week 1 that made it very difficult to schedule AFC West teams in the West at home.
But then a funny thing happened: after six straight seasons of opening on the road, they got seven straight seasons of opening at home–six of which were on prime time, to boot. And here’s something that’s a bit less known: since 2009, the Broncos have closed eight of their nine regular seasons at home. (The one exception was 2013, a delightful game in Oakland that could have been a 62-0 drubbing had the Broncos not pulled their starters in the second half.)
Will those streaks last for 2018? I’ll be boring and peg the odds at 50/50 for each one. The Broncos aren’t going to get any special favors for Weeks 1 and 17, but at the same time I don’t think the schedulers will pay much attention to the existence of these streaks, either.
Will the Broncos be on the late night Monday Night Football game again on Week 1?
This broadcast always features a game whose host plays in the West, and its opponent is usually (but not always) a Western team as well. Furthermore, this game usually does not feature teams with the better records from the prior year. Unfortunately, this makes the Broncos a possible candidate to be in this game, despite hosting the Chargers in this game last year.
On the other hand, because the AFC West and NFC West are playing each other, the schedulers could see an opportunity to feature an interconference game here, as they only get this opportunity once every four years. That’s what happened four years ago when the Chargers and Cardinals played in this game.
If the Broncos do get selected for this game, a foe that would make sense would be the 49ers. That would allow ESPN to play up the relations between John Elway, John Lynch, and Kyle Shanahan up a bit.
The Broncos will likely avoid three straight road games this season.
The schedulers do try to avoid doing this, but in such a complex feat there’s usually one or two teams that have to get screwed by this each year. Since this happened to the Broncos in 2017, I expect the schedulers to make a note of this and avoid calculations that would put Denver in this trap in 2018.
That should be enough to get some discussion started. There are likely quite a few things I’m forgetting out, so be sure to add your own thoughts in the comments.