The Joe Flacco Era officially starts on Monday, as the Denver Broncos open the 2019 campaign against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. Vic Fangio takes over as the new head coach, while the Broncos will implement a new offensive scheme under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. The Broncos have finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the 1971-72 seasons, and have not made the playoffs since their Super Bowl-winning season of 2015. Here are their 2019 opponents, and a prediction for their final 2019 season record.
The division is loaded at the top. The Chiefs and the Chargers standout as the teams to beat and both look like potential playoff teams again. Reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes returns to lead the Chiefs and will look to add to his monster stats from the 2018 season. Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. Similarly, Phillip Rivers also led the Chargers to the postseason and had another season with career shattering numbers. He threw over 4,000 yards for the 11th time in his career, and passed for 32 touchdowns. The Raiders are a team in disarray. Now that his helmet saga is over, Antonio Brown is finally working on timing with quarterback Derek Carr. Carr had a decent season, throwing for 4,049 yards and 19 touchdowns, but also had 10 interceptions. The Raiders are still looking for an identity under Jon Gruden.
Last year, Denver finished 2-4 in the division. They defeated the Raiders at home, and beat the Chargers in Los Angeles. The Broncos should improve their division record from last season. They should be able to handle the Raiders in both games, and should one game against the Chargers. They will struggle against a Chiefs team who look stronger this year. Division record – 3-3
What was looking like a tough division two weeks ago, has turned in to a much different division. Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement has moved the Colts from possible playoff contenders to team just trying to stay relevant. The Texans traded away All-Pro Jadeveon Clowney, but still have J.J. Watts to anchor their defense. Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles moved to Jacksonville in an attempt to revitalize their offense with Leonard Fournette and a much-improved defense. For the Titans, this could be a make or break year for Marcus Mariota.
With the exception of Houston, the Broncos should get victories at home against the Jaguars and Titans, and a road win at the Colts. As for the Texans, if Von Miller and Bradley Chubb can put pressure on quarterback DeShaun Watson, then a win could be possible. However, a loss is a more reasonable expectation. AFC South record – 3-1
Buffalo and Cleveland
The final two AFC opponents, based on 2018 records, are the Bills and Browns. The Browns have been the story all offseason, with Odell Beckham Jr. coming over via a trade with the New York Giants. OBJ should mesh well with quarterback Baker Mayfield, and OBJ has already praised the young quarterback on numerous occasions. Mayfield had two touchdowns on 188 yards passing last year against the Broncos, and was sacked twice. Some more pressure from the Bronco defense could throw Mayfield off his game. Buffalo could be much improved as well under quarterback Josh Allen. He had 2,074 and 10 touchdowns with 12 interceptions last season, but gained valuable NFL experience. The Broncos play the Bills at Buffalo in Week 12, while they host Cleveland in Week 9. Rest of the AFC record – 1-1
The final teams Denver plays are teams from the NFC North. Top to bottom the division looks much improved. Aaron Rodgers returns healthy and with a new head coach in Matt LaFleur. The Packers finished 6-9-1 but had many internal issues they were dealing with. Now with those struggles behind, they look to be a possible playoff contender. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings will look for a bounce-back season after a so-so 2018 in which they missed the playoffs. If the Bears can figure out their place-kicking situation, they might be the class of the division. They have one of the best defenses in the league with Khalil Mack leading the charge. The Lions look improved as well as they gained much-needed defense help in Trey Flowers, and will look to keep quarterback Matthew Stafford on his feet.
The Broncos travel to Minnesota and Green Bay, while the Bears and Lions make trips to the Mile High city. The Broncos will get tested early, as they face the Bears in Week 2 and the Packers in Week 3. Those could be make or break games and telling signs of what kind of season Denver will have. The Broncos will travel to Minnesota in Week 11 after their bye week, while Detroit comes to Denver in Week 16. NFC North record – 2-2
Final 2019 record – 9-7
Featured image courtesy of The Denver Post
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