If there is a professional football season in 2011, the Denver Broncos are in for a tough ride. The NFL released team schedules yesterday, and the Broncos will be taking on some of the league’s best. They’ll open at home on Monday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders and remain at Invesco Field the following week to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Denver will then hit the road for two weeks, taking on the Tennessee Titans, the Super Bowl-defending Green Bay Packers, before returning home to play division-rival San Diego Chargers. The Broncos will also host the New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears (full schedule via NFL.com). In all, the Broncos’ 2011 opponents went 133-123 in 2010, making Denver’s 2011 schedule the third-toughest in the league.

The Broncos’ inaugural game marks the first time in seven seasons they’ll open at home, and given the rest of the schedule, wins in the first two games could be more important than ever (Denver Post). Despite the difficulties ahead—or perhaps because of them—John Elway is excited. The Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations tweeted yesterday, “Doesn’t get better than opening the season at home on Monday Night Football against the Raiders. Can’t get here quick enough!”