When the NFL schedule was dropped in May of 2021, the Denver Broncos saw a rather impressive streak come to a screeching halt.
The five-year malaise since Peyton Manning retired certainly lowered the Broncos’ ‘Q-rating,’ as the schedule makers and television executives disregarded the Mile High City’s beloved football team as must-see TV.
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During May 2021’s unveiling of the league-wide schedule, the Broncos were to only appear in one prime-time matchup — and it wasn’t on “Monday Night Football,” which ended a 29-year-streak of appearances. Such a run was once an NFL record, so the dissing of their favorite team didn’t go unnoticed around Broncos Country.
But that’s what happens when a team with such a storied tradition suddenly finds itself among the league dregs, as the Broncos have been while missing the playoffs five years in a row. Denver was pulled from ESPN’s prime-time window by schedule-makers during the 2021 offseason, as the franchise was only bestowed a single nationally-televised game — a Week 7 showdown at the Cleveland Browns on “Thursday Night Football” on October 21.
The Broncos were dreadful in that game, a 17-14 loss to the Browns’ backup quarterback Case Keenum, who was also a former Broncos’ starter in the post-Manning era, and Cleveland’s third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson, who enjoyed a career-best performance when he tallied a game-high 146 rushing yards and a touchdown.
No one would’ve ever blamed TV execs again, if the Broncos were kept away from primetime eyes for the remainder of the 2021 campaign — but that all changed on November 23.
The NFL announced on that day that the Week 13 matchup between the Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, which was originally scheduled for a 4:25 EST kickoff on December 5, was moved to NBC’s prime-time slot on Sunday night, later that evening.
Obviously, the main reason and attraction for the shift has everything to do with the Chiefs’ superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but the Broncos are also an attractive opponent because of the heated rivalry these two AFC West combatants have enjoyed.
Plus, the Broncos (5-5) are still within striking distance of the first-place Chiefs (7-4), as the back-end of the 2021-22 divisional and postseason races begin to gain steam.
The flexible schedule procedure was first implemented by the NFL in 2006 to ensure quality matchups on Sunday night, and give teams that may have been a surprise success story to play their way into a prime-time slot. During 2021’s Week 18, NBC’s Sunday night time slot is also subject to flexing.
Broncos Country could perhaps see their team flexed again in the waning weeks of 2021, since they’re scheduled to host the Chiefs on January 9, 2022, at 4:25 p.m. EST, on CBS. That game could get flexed to Saturday, as there are a pair of to-be-determined games that will be nationally televised on January 8, 2022.
The Broncos’ Week 13 game at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium will be broadcast at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC.
More Exciting News
While the Broncos get to display their wares on a national stage, December 5, one member of the team may also get to showcase his talents on a national forum.
According to a tweet by ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, the Broncos could have a representative for the AFC in the February, 2022 Pro Bowl.
Safety Kareem Jackson is one of the more popular Broncos, but it is a bit shocking that the veteran is the leading vote getter on the team at his respective position.
Pro Football Focus currently has Jackson rated with a 59.5 grade, with his best attribute being in run defense at 62.3. The strong safety’s pass defense grade is 57.1. And according to PFF, Jackson’s passer rating against him is a robust 112.7. He does have 58 solo tackles, which ranks him fourth in the league at his position.
It may be a bit odd to Broncos Country, though, that Jackson’s mate on the back-end of the secondary, free safety Justin Simmons, is having an even better 2021 campaign, but is not leading at his position. Simmons, who has four interceptions, which is good for second-most at his position, has a PFF rating of 67.8. Simmons’s best attribute is against the run, grading out at 79, with a coverage rating of 62.8. Simmons is also yielding a passer rating against him of 57.9.
Hopefully Broncos Country will do more to get the Pro Bowler into yet another post-season all-star affair, as fan voting ends on December 16.
Former Broncos Pro Bowler in the News
Jackson and Simmons aren’t the only Broncos with ties to the Pro Bowl in the news, as former Denver running back Phillip Lindsay was also trending on social media platforms.
The Colorado native, and former Colorado University star, was a Pro Bowler with the Broncos following an outstanding and record-breaking 2018 season.
Lindsay, who spent three seasons in Denver, set a Broncos’ record for rushing yards by an undrafted rookie. He made NFL history that season by earning the first Pro Bowl selection given to an undrafted offensive rookie. He was also the third undrafted rookie since 1970 with at least 1,000 rushing yards, and came just 67 yards short of Dominic Rhodes’s NFL record for rushing yards by an undrafted rookie running back.
His stint in Denver was cut short, however, when first-year general manager George Paton released the fan-favorite player during the 2021 offseason. Lindsay ended up with the Houston Texans as a free agent, but could never gain traction in a crowded backfield.
He was ultimately waived by the Texans on November 23, only to be claimed by the Miami Dolphins one day later.
Lindsay has accrued just 130 rushing yards on 50 carries and one touchdown in 2021 — a far cry from the output that Broncos Country was used to seeing from him while donning the orange and blue.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8