NFL - US Sports: Denver Broncos season preview
The Broncos went back to the future in March when they brought a Lombardi Trophy-winning quarterback to Denver in a bid to complete the Super Bowl puzzle.
Just like their ultimately-successful move for Peyton Manning a decade ago, the trade for Russell Wilson was a sensation around the league and means the Broncos become a must-watch team for 2022.
In 10 years in Seattle, Wilson led the Seahawks to eight playoff appearances and two Super Bowl berths, including their 43-8 victory over the Manning-led Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
So he comes with almost a guarantee of meaningful postseason action, but will the 33-year-old be able to match his idol's achievements at Mile High?
NFL Season 2022/23
All across the U.S.A with three games scheduled for London, one for Munich and one in Mexico City.
|When||8th September 2022 - 12th February 2023|
|How to watch|
The vast majority of games are live and on-demand with NFL Game Pass, while selected games are available via Sky Sports and bet365's Sports Live Streaming
Where did the Denver Broncos finish last season?
4th AFC West (7-10)
What are the Denver Broncos' hopes for the season?
Of course, all of Denver hope Wilson's wizardry turns them into Super Bowl contenders straight away. But even the great Manning took a few years to get them there.
The Broncos are 23.00 to win their third Super Bowl this year, but a more realistic target might be to win their first division title since Manning retired for a second time in 2015.
Denver finished rock bottom of the AFC West under Vic Fangio last season and it would a huge achievement if rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett could take them from worst to first in 2022.
The Broncos are 4.20 to leapfrog all of their rivals this year or 3.30 to finish alongside the Kansas City Chiefs as one of the top two in the division.
Who are the Denver Broncos' opening opponents?
The made-for-TV storyline to come out of the Broncos' schedule release was an opening-weekend trip to Seattle for former Seahawks QB Wilson.
While all the attention will be on the man heading back to face the team he led for 10 seasons, former Broncos starter Drew Lock will aim to kickstart his career with a new franchise.
The game - at a no-doubt noisy Lumen Field - is the first Monday Night Football clash of the 2022 season and is set for 12th September with the Broncos 1.36 on the Money Line.
The 3.25 Seahawks are expected to flounder after losing their main star and releasing veteran defensive leader Bobby Wagner on the same day.
Despite the team's recent struggles, Denver has won 11 of its last 15 Week 1 games.
When are the Denver Broncos' key matchups?
The intra-division battles against the Chiefs will be crucial to both teams' playoff prospects, but potentially more so for the Broncos as they attempt to re-establish themselves as major players again in the AFC.
Both are scheduled to take place amid a daunting series of games that follow Denver's Week 9 bye.
Six of the final nine matchups are against 2021 playoff teams with the Chiefs due at Mile High in Week 14 and the return trip to Arrowhead Stadium falling a week after the Broncos do battle with the defending Super Bowl champions Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day.
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Who is the Denver Broncos head coach?
Hackett had been the OC at Green Bay for three years - two of which had seen Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers win the regular season MVP.
Maybe it was just a coincidence that he became their hire in January as many months of speculation about Rodgers' future were coming to a head.
But, ultimately, Rodgers re-committed to the Pack and Denver pulled out all the stops to deliver their new head coach a Super Bowl-calibre QB via the biggest blockbuster trade of the 21st century.
Hackett majored in neurobiology in college and comes with a reputation for his "new-school" approach, which utilises technology to package information to the players while he emphasizes coach education for his staff.
Which players have the Denver Broncos signed?
QB Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
CB Bless Austin (Seattle Seahawks)
CB Essang Bassey (Los Angeles Chargers)
G Ben Braden (Green Bay Packers)
OT Tom Compton (San Francisco 49ers)
DE Randy Gregory (Dallas Cowboys)
QB Josh Johnson (Baltimore Ravens)
DT D. J. Jones (San Francisco 49ers)
CB Donnie Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals)
WR Trey Quinn (Las Vegas Raiders)
S J. R. Reed (New York Giants)
WR Darrius Shepherd (New Jersey Generals)
LB Alex Singleton (Philadelphia Eagles)
TE Eric Tomlinson (Baltimore Ravens)
OT Billy Turner (Green Bay Packers)
CB K'Waun Williams (San Francisco 49ers)
Which players have left the Denver Broncos?
QB Drew Lock (Seattle Seahawks)
TE Noah Fant (Seattle Seahawks)
DE Shelby Harris (Seattle Seahawks)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Miami Dolphins)
CB Bryce Callahan (Los Angeles Chargers)
CB Mike Ford (Atlanta Falcons)
CB Kyle Fuller (Baltimore Ravens)
CB Nate Hairston (Minnesota Vikings)
NT Justin Hamilton (Washington Commanders)
LB Micah Kiser (Las Vegas Raiders)
OT Bobby Massie
LB Natrez Patrick (Detroit Lions)
G Austin Schlottmann (Minnesota Vikings)
WR Diontae Spencer
DE Shamar Stephen
LB Stephen Weatherly (Cleveland Browns)
LB Kenny Young (Las Vegas Raiders)
Who are the Denver Broncos' key players?
LB Nik Bonitto (2nd Round)
RB Javonte Williams
A sixth consecutive season finishing 22nd or worst in points and a six-year playoff drought led the organization to essentially mortgage their long-term future for a chance to win now with Wilson.
He will be their sixth different Week 1 starting QB in six seasons, but he can make throws that none of his predecessors could.
The Broncos' longest touchdown pass of 2021 went 44 yards and they had only two that went over 30 yards for a score.
Wilson's ability to stretch the field will be crucial to opening up passing lanes underneath and opponents will no longer dare to stack the box and key in on the run.
That should help second-year rusher Javonte Williams, who recorded 203 carries for 903 yards plus 43 receptions for 319 yards as a rookie, enjoy another breakout season.