Predicting the Broncos’ 2021 schedule


Aric DiLalla

The annual schedule release is one of my favorite moments on the NFL calendar.

It’s great to see when the Broncos will play each opponent, debate the toughest and easiest stretches on the slate and circle the prime-time matchups.

It’s also a sign that the season is within reach.

The Broncos’ 2021 schedule will be released on Wednesday, May 12 at 6 p.m. MT, but before the official slate is announced, I’m ready for a now annual – and largely fruitless – exercise in prognostication.

Since I enjoy the schedule release so much – perhaps more than anyone I know except for my friend and coworker Phil Milani – I figured it’s time to again predict the Broncos’ schedule.

The NFL’s schedule makers create thousands of schedules before picking the one they use each year, and there are typically hundreds of trillions of combinations for the formerly 256-game regular-season schedule.

Of course, we’ll have a 17-game schedule – and still just one bye – for the first time in 2021, which only makes this exercise even more difficult.

We do know the Broncos’ home and road opponents, which means I’ll have at least some info to work with as I try to predict the slate.

As a reminder, Denver hosts the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Bengals, Ravens, Eagles, Washington Football Team, Jets and Lions. The Broncos will travel to play the Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Browns, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants and Jaguars.

Otherwise, I’ll rely on a few pieces of information to guide me for the opener, the second game of the year and the season’s final game.

For Week 1, the Broncos have opened on “Monday Night Football” in three of the last four seasons as the second game of a double-header. NBC Sports’ Peter King, though, reported that there will likely be only one Monday-night game to start the 2021 season. I’ll stick with a Sunday matchup for the Broncos to start the year, but the Colorado Buffaloes are scheduled to play Texas A&M on Sept. 11 at Empower Field at Mile High. I’m guessing the NFL wouldn’t schedule a Broncos home game the day after a college matchup, so I think Denver will open on the road for only the second time since 2010.

The Broncos haven’t played their first two games on the road since 2003, and that’s happened just twice since the 1970 merger. That means the Broncos should be back at Empower Field at Mile High in Week 2 for their home opener.

The final game of the year may be the easiest to predict, as the Broncos have closed with one of their division rivals in each of the last 13 seasons. Five of those last eight season finales have been against the Raiders, and four of them were in Denver against the silver and black.

What does all this information mean? Potentially nothing. A year ago, I didn’t match a single game on the schedule – though the process was complicated by media rumors of a schedule front-loaded with inter-conference matchups.

Hey, there’s nowhere to go but up this year.

Take a look below at my best guess – and then tweet at me @AricDiLalla to let me know what your ideal opening game would be.

Week 1: at Las Vegas Raiders

Week 2: vs. Baltimore Ravens (Monday Night Football)

Week 3: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Week 4: at Los Angeles Chargers

Week 5: at Dallas Cowboys

Week 6: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week 7: at Jacksonville Jaguars (Thursday Night Football)

Week 8: vs. Detroit Lions

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: vs. New York Jets

Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs

Week 12: at New York Giants

Week 13: vs. Washington Football Team

Week 14: at Cleveland Browns

Week 15: vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday Night Football)

Week 16: vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Week 17: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 18: vs. Los Angeles Chargers



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How to get Bangladeshi men talking about mental health


Bangladeshi men have been hit hard by the pandemic – in terms of higher death rates compared to other communities, shut down industries and job losses. But with lockdown easing, many fear that the impact of the pandemic on their mental health may be overlooked.

Imran Khan lost his father earlier this year to coronavirus. While he reached out to this GP for support, other Bangladeshi men are less likely to do so, says psychologist Shah Alam. He believes Islam could play a key role in getting men to open up and reducing the stigma around mental health issues. Imam Sheikh Abdullah Hasan has been exploring this – he has been providing mental health toolkits to more than 200 imams and scholars around the UK.

If you are affected by the issues in this story, help and support are available at BBC Action Line.



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Plant-based food retail market grew 27% in U.S. last year, reports find



It may sound like a science fiction plotline, but it’s really a food industry phenomenon: Fake meat is growing. During the pandemic, alternative meat producers have hit record sales and added new companies and brands.

The U.S. retail plant-based food market grew 27%, reaching just over $7 billion in 2020, according to reports released Monday by the Good Food Institute.

Retail sales for plant-based meat increased by 45%, closing with $1.4 billion in total sales and surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time. Plant-based dairy categories grew by 24%, to $4.4 billion, while the plant-based egg category grew by 168%, reports show.

“Alternative proteins are a supply-side solution that will help deliver a food system that can lower the risks for future pandemics and antibiotic resistance, decrease climate emissions, and help us feed a world of 10 billion people by 2050,” said Emma Ignaszewski, corporate engagement project manager for the Good Food Institute (GFI). “This industry will create new jobs and opportunities for American workers. And alternative proteins can accomplish all of this while families can still have a hamburger, steak, or chicken breast on their plates at dinnertime.”

In addition to peak sales, the alternative proteins industry also saw a record number of new companies and brands last year. Twenty-three cultivated meat companies launched in 2020, bumping up the total to 76 companies globally — an increase of 43% compared to 2019. Thirteen new companies that produce fermentation-enabled alternative proteins started, making up a total of 51 companies worldwide, a 43% climb from 2019.

Meanwhile, 112 new plant-based meat, egg and dairy brands hit the U.S. market in 2020, comprising a total of 1,205 brands, a 10% increase over the previous year.

And companies are now inventing more than just meatless burgers by experimenting with various types of meat and seafood, the GFI report says.

For example, Top Tier Foods and JAT Oppenheimer developed plant-based Wagyu (Japanese cattle) beef, while Beyond Meat and OmniPork created plant-based pork. Good Catch launched plant-based fish cakes, fish burgers and crab cakes in U.S. grocery stores and in Europe. Field Roast, Rebellyous Foods and SIMULATE (formerly NUGGS) released versions of plant-based chicken.

Charles Stahler, co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group, said there has always been a demand for natural plant-based products such as rice and peas, but that there appears to be many more processed “quick and easy plant-based foods out there.”

“This is for a combination of many reasons related to health, environment, animal rights, convenience, money being put in by investors, and a larger variety of tastes of foods,” Mr. Stahler has told The Washington Times. “Any additional meatless options being offered is great and helpful to consumers.”

In a February survey, the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 17% of 8- to 17-year-olds are usually eating plant-based meat during the week and 23% are usually drinking plant-based milk. The survey, which involved about 1,000 youth, also found that 57% of 8- to 12-year-olds sometimes or always eat vegetarian (including vegan) when eating out.

“So this seems to indicate long-term there will be a market for the plant-based industry,” Mr. Stahler said.

The cultivated meat industry also made some strides last year in the alternative protein sector including landing the first-in-the-world regulatory approval from Singapore to sell laboratory-grown cultured meat. In December, Eat Just, a San Francisco-based company that develops meat alternatives, got the green light to sell its cultured chicken nuggets at restaurant 1880 in Singapore, which sold the product as invitation-only dinners before adding it to the menu in early 2021.

The regulatory approval of cultured meat from animal cells is not only safe for human consumption and avoids slaughtering animals, but also will help meet the increasing demand for meat production, Eat Just said.

Ms. Ignaszewski of the GFI said that raising animals for food is one of the top contributors of serious environmental problems. She noted conventional meat production uses more land and water, leads to more air pollution and the release of toxic chemicals and leaves a larger carbon footprint than plant-based or cultivated meat production.

The North American Meat Institute said it does not have a position on plant-based foods other than they are labeled accurately and honestly “to allow consumers to choose the products that best meet their families’ needs,” said company spokesperson Sarah Little. She noted that many of the organization’s members have plant-based lines of products.

A national analysis released in March by the Food Industry Association found that Americans were also buying more beef, pork, poultry and lamb during the pandemic, making meat grocery sales increase by 20% from 2019 to 2020. The report also found that about 75% of Americans think that meat is part of a healthy balanced diet, and that 94% say they buy meat to get high-quality protein, according to a press statement.

“Americans feel better than ever about choosing meat as part of healthy, balanced diets. With COVID-19 deepening demand for convenient, affordable food that tastes good and matches Americans’ values, meat fits the bill,” said Julie Anna Potts, North American Meat Institute president, in a statement.

More than 98% of American households bought meat last year, the report says, while 43% of Americans said they buy more meat than before the pandemic mostly because they are cooking more meals at home.

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Consultant: West Virginia city was bombarded with opioids



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – A new analysis of opioids in West Virginia shows the city of Huntington and its surrounding county were overwhelmed with shipments of prescription drugs, nearly all of which came from three large drug distributors on trial in a landmark case.

Data consultant Craig McCann of Washington, D.C., testified for the plaintiffs Monday in a lawsuit against distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., The Herald-Dispatch reported.

According to McCann, an analysis of data showed that from 2006 to 2014, about 110 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone were shipped to Cabell County and Huntington, which accuse the three distributors in federal court of fueling the area’s opioid epidemic.

About 90% of the shipments originated from the defendants, who unsuccessfully objected to McCann’s testimony.

During the nine-year period, there were an average 39.9 hydrocodone and oxycodone doses per person shipped nationally, compared to an average of 72 doses per person in West Virginia and 122 doses per person in Cabell County and Huntington.

When 12 other opiates were included, the numbers grew to 48.8 doses per person annually nationwide. That figure nearly doubled for West Virginia and nearly tripled for Cabell County, McCann said.

The county and city argue that “The Big Three” drug distributors created a “public nuisance” by flooding the area with prescription pain pills and ignored the signs that the community was being ravaged by addiction.

Attorneys for the manufacturers last week attempted to shift the blame away from their clients by arguing that what happens after delivery is out of the suppliers’ control. They argued West Virginia’s labor-intensive mining and industrial sectors may have led to workers with a greater need for painkillers. They also pointed out that the companies had no authority over illicit street drugs, the cause of the current crisis.

The trial could last into mid-June.

Similar lawsuits have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements, but this is the first time the allegations have wound up at federal trial. The result could have huge effects on hundreds of similar lawsuits that have been filed across the country.

Huntington was once ground zero for the addiction epidemic until a quick response program that formed in 2017 drove the overdose rate down. But the pandemic undid much of the progress.

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Consumer watchdog agency rediscovers its teeth under Biden



NEW YORK (AP) – The nation’s consumer watchdog is signaling a more aggressive approach toward the financial services sectors after a few years of being on a tight leash.

Under President Biden, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has rescinded or scaled back a number of policies put in place by the Trump administration. And the bureau is staffing up in anticipation of taking a more active role in regulation and enforcement, as it did during the Obama administration.

This is all being done without the CFPB having a permanent director, an important position since the bureau’s authority comes from the director who is answerable only to the president. Dave Uejio, a long-time career employee of the bureau, has been the bureau’s acting director since Trump’s appointee Kathy Kraninger resigned the day Biden was sworn into office.

Despite holding a caregiver or placeholder position, Uejio’s has been quite active in the role.

In April, the bureau broadened the scope for what it considers to be abusive behavior by providers of financial services or products to consumers. Under Kraninger, the bureau adopted a narrower definition that, among other things, made monetary penalties less likely. The change will likely result in more enforcement actions and larger fines against the financial services industry, experts said.

Created in 2011, the CFPB was supposed to be a nonpartisan advocate for consumers and borrowers after the Great Recession; instead, the bureau has often been caught in the middle of the ideological war between Democrats and Republicans’ views on how to run government.

Under the Trump administration, enforcement actions and fines dropped off significantly compared to when the bureau was controlled by Richard Cordray, President Obama’s appointee to the bureau who left in November 2017. The bureau’s own data shows the CFPB collecting roughly $650 million in fines or penalties per year under Trump appointees’ control compared to $1.84 billion on average collected annually under the Obama administration.

The bureau also rescinded several measures put into place by the Trump administration during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these directives were designed to give banks flexibility – particularly when it came to record-keeping as the entire industry shifted to working remotely. But consumer advocates argue that the banking industry has had a full year to adjust at this point, and consumers deserve accurate records no matter what.

“He’s off to a promising start, setting the tone and direction for the CFPB that we hope the permanent director will adopt,” Odette Williamson, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said of Uejio.

The bureau has also extended its mission in ways previously not seen.

Using its authority to go after debt collectors, the CFPB moved last month to protect tenants behind on rent due to the pandemic from eviction. The Centers for Disease Control last year put into effect an eviction moratorium, but the CDC had no statutory authority itself to enforce its own rule. So, the bureau used its authority to force any agents acting on behalf of landlords, typically law firms hired to collect back rent, to give tenants their rights under the CDC’s rule and to make sure struggling tenants got assistance.

The CFPB had never held any authority over renters or rent collection previously, and the change was welcomed by poverty and consumer advocates.

The banking industry has been critical of the more aggressive posture of the bureau, partly because the changes are happening under a temporary director.

“At the very least, if he’s going to make these changes and be in this role for an extended period of time, he should appear in front of Congress as is statutorily required,” said Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, a trade group for the larger retail banks.

A CFPB spokesperson said Uejio’s actions “have reflected the urgency of the crises our nation is facing,” adding that moving slowly “would further put American families in harm’s way.”

Rohit Chopra, Biden’s choice for CFPB director, has himself signaled a more aggressive approach to the bureau’s mission once he’s confirmed by the Senate. Chopra is a former bureau employee and currently a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. The White House reportedly has not wanted him to move over to the CFPB until a replacement can be found for him at the FTC.

Another familiar face will also return in a new role. On Tuesday the White House announced it would put Cordray, the bureau’s first director under the Obama administration, in charge of the Federal Office of Student Loans. The amount of student loan debt owed by Americans has grown to $1.7 trillion.

While Corday will be working under the Department of Education, his position is likely to restore the working relationship between the bureau and the DOE. Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had effectively cut off the CFPB from any authority over student loans.

“Appointing Cordray to lead (the office) is a great step, showing that the administration is serious about what’s necessary to protect borrowers and address the student debt crisis,” said Seth Frotman of the Student Borrower Protection Center, and the former top official at the CFPB over student loan issues.

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The Latest: Islanders to have fully vaccinated fan section



The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that Nassau Coliseum will have a fully vaccinated fan section when the New York Islanders open the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Half of the arena will be used as a fully vaccinated fan section with attendees spaced approximately 3 feet apart with an unoccupied seat between each party. Individuals seated in those sections will have to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Young adults and children under age 16 not yet eligible for the vaccine may be seated with a vaccinated adult so long as they’ve received a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Appropriate social distancing, masks and other health protocols will still apply throughout the Coliseum, which seats 14,500.

Entering this week, 66% of Long Island’s adults had received at least one vaccine dose and 53% had completed their vaccine series.

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New York Road Runners is planning to host races for thousands of runners as New York state eases coronavirus limits for large-scale outdoor event venues.

NYRR will more than double the runner field size of the field for the Mastercard New York Mini 10K on June 12 – from 1,200 to 3,000. The Front Runners LGBT Pride Run on June 26 and the Achilles Hope and Possibility 4M on July 10 will each have 4,250 runners.

The Mini 10K, a women-only road race, will be the first regularly scheduled and largest NYRR race to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Comprehensive health and safety guidelines and procedures will be in place.

All events taking place in New York City’s Central Park will operate under NYRR’s return-to-racing guidelines. Those will include increased and staggered starts, self-hydration options, hand sanitation stations, and limited race amenities to uphold adherence to social distancing.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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DC aims for full reopening, with masks, by June 11



WASHINGTON (AP) – Washington, D.C., is emerging from its pandemic quarantine.

With COVID-19 numbers dropping, officials in the nation’s capital have announced a reopening timeline that would see all indoor capacity limits eliminated by early June, but with mask requirements still in place.

Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a two-stage plan on Monday, with capacity restrictions on most indoor activities lifting on May 21, with the exception of bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues. Those final categories would see their capacity limits removed by June 11.

The two dates represent a pair of major crossroads moments for Washington, both for the daily lives of its residents and for its hospitality-heavy economy, driven by tourism and conventions.

“We are quickly and enthusiastically approaching containment level of the virus in our jurisdiction,” said Health Department Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt. “But in the ensuing weeks, we continue to need to remain vigilant.”

Virus metrics show daily case rates are down to levels not seen since last summer. Nesbitt said contract tracing for new virus cases “would remain a 24/7 operation.”

As of May 10, Bowser said more than 200,000 D.C. residents had been fully vaccinated. She also announced that the overflow field hospital that took over Washington’s convention center last year would be dismantled.

“I’m grateful we never had to use it,” Bowser said.

The D.C. government will be bringing its work-from-home employees back to their offices in stages. Bowser said that by July 12, all D.C. government employees will be working at least part time from the office.

The May 21 shift will lift all capacity restrictions on restaurants, gyms, schools, offices and houses of worship. Bowser said she expected to approve a waiver request from Monumental Sports, owners of the Capitals and Wizards, to immediately increase attendance capacity from 10% to 25% for potential playoff games. The Capitals are solidly in the NHL playoffs, while the Wizards are fighting for the final spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

Bowser has generally proceeded more cautiously on easing restrictions than her neighbors in Virginia and Maryland. In many cases, the surrounding counties in southern Maryland and northern Virginia that comprise the capital region have chosen to stay closer to Bowser’s conservative line.

Bowser on Monday said she has “worked, I think, very cooperatively over the last 15 months” with Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. “The states of Maryland and Virginia are bigger than this region, obviously, so they need to do some different things that impact their whole state, where we’ve been very focused on the capital region.”

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‘Change is coming’ at the top says Djokovic


Novak Djokovic said Monday that the recent run of Masters 1000 titles won by NextGen players is clear evidence that “change is coming” at the top of men’s tennis and his position as world number one is under threat.

Two of this year’s three Masters champions, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz, have been first-time winners, while Matteo Berrettini reached his first such final at the Madrid Open.

Alexander Zverev returns this week to Rome, the site of his first Masters title in 2017, fresh off a second triumph in the Spanish capital — and fourth overall at this level.

“The results are showing that,” Djokovic, who sat out the Madrid tournament, said ahead of his Italian Open defence.

“There are guys like Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, (Andrey) Rublev that are winning against all of us and playing a lot and building their ranking points. (Daniil) Medvedev as well, of course, and challenging for the top spots.

“Dominic Thiem of course has been there for many years. It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen. The change on the men’s rankings, top of the rankings is coming.

“Whether it’s going to happen in a month or a year or whatever, I don’t know.”

Djokovic in March eclipsed Roger Federer’s record for the most weeks spent at number one. This week marks his 320th at the top of the men’s game.

But the Serb, who won his 18th major at the Australian Open in February, insisted his focus now is on surpassing Federer’s haul of 20 Grand Slams — a record he shares with Rafael Nadal.

“I’m not personally paying too much attention anymore to the rankings as much as I am to my game for the Grand Slams. Those are the biggest focus tournaments right now at this stage of my career.

“I have managed to achieve the milestone of the historic ranking No. 1, and that was the focus up to recently. Now it’s more about really trying to peak at Grand Slams and make those count for my career.”

Djokovic has played just two events since winning in Melbourne. He lost to Dan Evans in the last 16 at Monte Carlo and was beaten by Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals at home in Belgrade.

He is gearing up for another bid for a second Roland Garros title, as he attempts to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams twice since Rod Laver in 1969.

Djokovic lost to Nadal in straight sets in last year’s French Open final.

“I didn’t have too many matches. I didn’t play so great in Monaco and Belgrade, but I’m hopefully going to change that here in Rome and then another week in Belgrade before the French Open,” he said.

“Four tournaments before the French is I think enough in terms of match play.

“So I’m building my fitness and I’m building just my game slowly step by step in order to peak in Paris. That’s definitely where I want to play my best.”

Source: News24



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