Broncos’ 2013 opponents nearly set

Week 13 saw three teams (Denver, New England, Atlanta) clinch their divisions, with Houston also sealing a playoff spot.

This marks the earliest point at which any NFL season has seen either three division races end, or four playoff tickets punched, and two of them happened concurrently - as soon as Greg Schiano was done fanning his tail feathers (the Tampa Bay loss clinched the NFCS for Atlanta).

That the Broncos and Pats clinched their divisions ensures that Manning/Brady 14 (or 15, if they meet in this year's playoffs) will take place next season at Foxboro, barring injury or retirement for either.

Denver will also travel to New Jersey for a Peyton/Eli showdown that figures to be a SNF game, to Indy for Peyton's return and a meeting with Andrew Luck & Co., a visit with Kubes and the Texans, and a trip to the Jerry Dome.

The only unknown opponent is this year's AFCN winner - either Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or Cincinnati - who will come to Denver at some point (how about as the Thursday night opener?). Aside from them, Denver will also face Mike Shanahan (and RG3) in his first return to Denver since Mr. B shitcanned him just under four years ago (12/30/08), along with Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Philly.

Denver will have played five night games this season after Thursday, and a look at next year's opponents makes it an absolute lock that we Broncos fans will have another handful of late nights in 2013.

The networks will have quite a battle over who gets to broadcast which games, with FOX presumably fighting hard to not lose Peyton/Shanny/RG3 to a nighttime slot.

CBS will have an easier time of it, as Denver will have five mega-ratings matchups (Houston, Indy, Dallas, Giants, Pats) on their road docket.

We look forward to seeing how many national writers make a big deal out of how much harder Denver's 2013 schedule will be, relative to their 2012 slate. Won't that be a hoot?

Edited 2:23pm ET: Story originally said Broncos would host winner of NFCN - corrected to say they will face AFCN champion; also edited for clarity

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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