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Denver Broncos schedule analysis

Breakdown: It’s no surprise, but Peyton Manning and his band are a popular bunch. The Broncos, who have the easiest schedule in the NFL based on 2012 results, will be in prime time five times. It all starts Sept. 5 in the NFL's season opener on a Thursday night. It has become a tradition to start the NFL season at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions, but because of a conflict with the Baltimore Orioles, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are starting on the road. This is a big break for Denver. The crowd will be sky high in the rematch of a painful double-overtime defeat for Denver in the playoffs. The Broncos remain in the spotlight in Week 2 when Manning travels to New York to meet his brother Eli Manning and the Giants. This will be the third meeting between the brothers and the first since Peyton left the Colts; Peyton is 2-0 against his younger sibling. In another big game, in the Sunday night game in Week 7 Manning returns to Indianapolis, where he spent 14 seasons. That game could be perhaps the most emotional of Manning’s career.

Complaint department: The Broncos have to be pretty happy with this schedule, but there's a potential problem with two road games to end the season. If Denver needs to clinch something, it may have to do it on the road. It plays at Houston in a potentially huge AFC game in Week 16 and then at Oakland in Week 17. The good thing is there won’t be any snow in either game.

Reunion year: Manning’s trip to Indianapolis and the Manning Bowl aren’t the only reunion games on Denver’s schedule. Free-agent prize receiver Wes Welker returns to New England in Week 12. Mike Shanahan, who coached the Broncos for 14 seasons before he was fired after the 2008 season, returns to Denver for the first time with Washington in Week 8. Of course, the Baltimore game also marks the return of pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil. He left the Broncos after the infamous fax machine gaffe.

Broncos Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 5, Baltimore, 8:30 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.

Week 3: Monday, Sept. 23, Oakland, 8:30 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, Philadelphia, 4:25 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, at Dallas, 4:25 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, Washington, 4:25 p.m.

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 17, Kansas City, 4:05 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at New England, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 1, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 8, Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.

Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 12, San Diego, 8:25 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Houston, 1 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, at Oakland, 4:25 p.m.