Denver Broncos preview 2023: Over or under 8.5 wins? Chances to claim AFC West title?

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Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton looks on as players stretch during an NFL football training camp at the team's headquarters Monday, July 31, 2023, in Centennial, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It’s NFL team preview time, and today we’re looking at the Broncos. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from July 25 through Sept. 8, we will take an in-depth look at each team in the NFL with a 7- to 10-minute video going through impactful additions and departures, last year’s rankings and strength of schedule in 2023.

Home Field Sports analyst Jim Derry will then make a prediction on the team’s record this season and where they will finish in their respective division, along with the over/under win total, as posted at Caesars Sportsbook.

These stories are a brief summary of the accompanied preview videos – powered by the Dattitude Podcast (which will review each division every Friday until the season begins). The schedule for when each team will run is listed below with a link to each story and video that already has run.

DENVER BRONCOS

Coach: Sean Payton (1st season)

2022 record: 5-12, 4th in AFC West; did not make playoffs.

Last season in a nutshell: Blame it on Nathaniel Hackett, blame it on Russell Wilson, blame it on the injuries at key spots, blame it on whatever you want. The Broncos were not just “bad” in 2022, they were historically bad as a franchise.

They tied with the 2010 Broncos for the most losses in a season in franchise history, and they were worst in the league in points per game for the first time ever.

So to say Sean Payton has a massive overhaul job to do is an understatement. That being said, this is the same Sean Payton who came to New Orleans in 2006 – the year after Hurricane Katrina forced the dislocation of the team for all of 2005, which ended in a 3-13 record and the firing of Coach Jim Haslett – and won just the second playoff game in Saints history and led the team’s first-ever appearance in the NFC championship game.

Can he do that here? One could argue he has more talent in Denver than he had in New Orleans in 2006. And he has a quarterback in Wilson who is being questioned very much like Drew Brees was questioned 17 years ago. The big difference is Brees was 27 then and was nowhere near the age of an average quarterback’s prime. Wilson will be 35 one week after Thanksgiving, and he has regressed in back-to-back seasons.

Wilson has plenty of weapons, as receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton collected nearly 2,000 combined receiving yards last season. Meanwhile, Javonte Williams, who looked in 2021 like he could be well on his way to becoming the top of the class among young running backs, tore his ACL in Week 4 last season but should be fine by the start of the regular season.

All that, and we haven’t even mentioned Denver’s seventh-ranked defense that might have saved them from being 2-15 or so. The bad news is the team’s leader in QB hits and sacks – Dre’Mont Jones – left in free agency for Seattle, but their interceptions king with six in 2022 is back in Justin Simmons.

And that rank of seven might be a bit skewed, as they kind of gave up in the final three games, as Hackett was fired following an embarrassing 51-14 loss to the depleted Los Angeles Rams. In fact, their defense allowed fewer than 20 points in 10 of 14 games before that Week 16 debacle.

2023 bye week: 9

2023 Draft: 2 (63rd overall) WR Marvin Mims, Oklahoma; 3 (67) LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas; 3 (83) DB Riley Moss, Iowa; 6 (183) S JL Skinner, Boise State; 7 (257) C Alex Forsyth, Oregon.

Free-agent signings: RT Mike McGlinchey (from San Francisco), 5 years, $87.5M; G Ben Powers (from Baltimore), 4 years, $51.5M; DE Zach Powers (from Arizona), 3 years, $47.75M; QB Jarrett Stidham (from Las Vegas), 2 years, $10M; RB Semaje Perine (from Cincinnati), 2 years, $7.5M; TE Chris Manhertz (from Jacksonville), 2 years, $6M; CB Tremon Smith (from Houston), 2 years, $5M; P Riley Dixon (from LA Rams), 2 years, $3.5M; DE Frank Clark (from Kansas City), 1 year, $5.45M; FB Michael Burton, 1 year, $1.32M; CB Fabian Moreau (from NY Giants), 1 year, $1.3M; WR Marquez Calloway (from New Orleans), 1 year, $1.14M.

What needs to go right: It depends on what you’re asking to happen. If you’re asking this team to win nine or 10 games and sneak into the playoffs, that’s a realistic goal and certainly is possible. If you’re asking for this team to win the AFC West and be a Super Bowl contender, then just about every single move Payton and company have made in the offseason – and there were TONS of them – has to go right. Oh, and Wilson has to be the old Wilson. Er, we mean the young Wilson.

Realistically, this is the season that puts the Broncos back on the right track and the track they were used to for so long. They have had six consecutive campaigns without a winning season and they haven’t been to the playoffs since they won Super Bowl 50 in Peyton Manning’s final season of 2015.

The main keys are not only that Denver continues with its top-five type of defense, but obviously that Wilson is at least a shell of his former self. And, realistically, Williams needs to be back to his 2021 form and help transform this running game, which was 21st in yards per game last season and 28th in touchdowns scored.

Key moments in video: Sean Payton changes the game for this Broncos team, and he’s in a better situation than when he joined Saints in 2006 (2:06); Russell Wilson has got to figure out his problems – and quickly (3:50); Denver has made a ton of moves in free agency (4:45); Picking the “easy” and “hard” parts of the 10th-toughest schedule (7:17); Over/Under win totals, predictions and best bet for the Broncos (8:47).

PREVIEW SCHEDULE / LINKS

AFC SOUTH

July 25: Houston Texans

July 26: Indianapolis Colts

July 27: Jacksonville Jaguars

July 28: Tennessee Titans

NFC WEST

Aug. 1: Arizona Cardinals

Aug. 2: Los Angeles Rams

Aug. 3: San Francisco 49ers

Aug. 4: Seattle Seahawks

AFC WEST

Aug. 8: Denver Broncos

Aug. 9: Kansas City Chiefs

Aug. 10: Las Vegas Raiders

Aug. 11: Los Angeles Chargers

NFC EAST

Aug. 15: Dallas Cowboys

Aug. 16: New York Giants

Aug. 17: Philadelphia Eagles

Aug. 18: Washington Commanders

AFC EAST

Aug. 22: Buffalo Bills

Aug. 23: Miami Dolphins

Aug. 24: New England Patriots

Aug. 25: New York Jets

NFC NORTH

Aug. 29: Chicago Bears

Aug. 29: Detroit Lions

Aug. 30: Green Bay Packers

Aug. 30: Minnesota Vikings

AFC NORTH

Aug. 31: Baltimore Ravens

Aug. 31: Cincinnati Bengals

Sept. 1: Cleveland Browns

Sept. 2: Pittsburgh Steelers

NFC SOUTH

Sept. 5: Atlanta Falcons

Sept. 6: Carolina Panthers

Sept. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sept. 8: New Orleans Saints

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