The Denver Broncos are coming off a half-decade of losing records that stretches back to 2017. The team has dismissed two head coaches (Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio) and run through a carousel of QBs who all flailed out, with some still clinging to backup status elsewhere (Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock).
But everything has changed in one NFL offseason, as second-year Broncos general manager George Paton landed nine-time Pro Bowl and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seahawks. Not to mention the energetic new staff led by rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who had extensive experience with franchise QB in Green Bay.
Suffice it to say, when Wilson lands on your squad, the expectation to win is palpable, intense, and real. Fans have witnessed video clips, footage, and press conferences featuring the new Broncos signal-caller, who has undeniably thrust the team into a new era of discipline and hard work.
"Here's the best-case scenario: Russell Wilson is 'The Man' and proves to be the missing piece for the Broncos this year," NFL Media analyst Adam Rank said last week.
"Obviously, the worst case would be that he doesn't play well. But obviously, I don't believe that: 12 and 5 for the Denver Broncos and winning the AFC West."
The enthusiastic Rank not only has Denver finishing with a winning record but among the conference leaders of the AFC. Keep in mind the league intentionally scheduled the Broncos for five prime-time matchups in the regular season, for a total of seven nationally televised games. On Monday, the league announced that all three of the club's pre-season games will be hosted on NFL Network, giving the team a total of ten nationally broadcasted matchups for the 2022 season.
According to Rank’s prediction, the Broncos could find success early in the season, beating the Seahawks, Texans, and 49ers, before surrendering their first loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on the road in Week 4. The early record projection also has Denver losing to divisional opponents, the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6 and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17.
That means the Broncos could be .500 (3-3) in a division that’s projected to be near the best in the league. In total, Rank’s scheduled wins versus losses forecast has the team recording two three-game winning streaks, and only one losing streak of back-to-back games in Weeks 16-17 (Rams, Chiefs).
From 2011 to 2015, Hall-of-Fame QB Peyton Manning led the Broncos to five straight divisional titles. Since then, the Chiefs have ruled the roost as the reigning six-time AFC West champs, stomping Denver in 13 consecutive games.
Could this be the year of redemption for the reinvigorated and revamped ‘Orange and Blue?’
Fans and experts alike tend to think so.