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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 13: Drew Lock (3) of the Denver Broncos high fives Dalton Risner (66) after throwing a deep touchdown pass to KJ Hamler (13) against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of Denver's 32-27 win at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, December 13, 2020. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
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Clayton: The Broncos schedule makes the playoffs a possibility

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Long-time NFL coach Dick Vermeil taught me that the schedule is everything in the NFL. Easy schedules could lead to championships. Tough schedules can lead to wild card berths or non-playoff seasons.

His theory came through when his Rams had one of the easiest schedules in league history and rode it to the Super Bowl. There, St. Louis beat Tennessee to win a championship.

Well, the Broncos got several breaks on their schedule in 2021. And that could get them closer to the playoffs.

The big things are what divisions a team plays and their non-common games. That determines how tough a schedule will be.

The AFC West plays the NFC East and the AFC North. The AFC North is tough. The NFC East should be better this year, but it didn’t have a team with a winning record last year. So that’s a good draw for Denver.

There are three non-common games based on where a team finishes the year before. Because the Broncos finished fourth in the AFC West in 2020, they get three games against three of the worst teams in the NFL.

The Broncos drew the Jaguars and Jets, who combined for a 3-29 record a year ago. Adding the 17th game allowed Denver to play the Lions, who are completely rebuilding and could have one of the worst records in the league. That could give the Broncos a great chance of getting three easy wins.

Overall, Denver has the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL. They face teams with a combined 127-143-2 record in 2020.

There is a big gap between the rest of the division and the Broncos. The Raiders have the eighth-toughest schedule (.526 winning percentage). The Chiefs are tied with the Seahawks with the 11th-toughest schedule (.511). The Chargers have the 17th-toughest schedule (.493). That’s a 10-team gap because of the matchups against the Jaguars, Jets and Lions.

The Broncos have a chance to be a team that will be under the radar. Their only primetime game is Oct. 21 against the Browns on a Thursday night. But if Denver can land Aaron Rodgers, you will see a whole bunch of scrambling to flex games to get them in primetime.

As stated, schedule is everything. And the Broncos is a good one.