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Can The Denver Broncos Bounce Back in 2023?

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At this time last year, hope radiated through Broncos’ Country with the promise that Russell Wilson will turn their team around once and for all. Unfortunately for them, what actually ensued was a four-win season that was highlighted by bad coaching, numerous injuries, questionable decisions from the front office, and humiliation in the media on a weekly basis. 

With Denver being a disappointment of that magnitude, there isn’t a lot of hope surrounding the team for the 2023 season. Fans don’t want to get their hopes up again just to be let down, and it’s tough to blame them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the outlook for the team is hopeless, so that begs the question: can the Broncos bounce back in 2023?

Analyzing Last Season

First, we’ve got to figure out what went wrong in 2022 to make this team play so terribly. Everything seemed to be in place before the season. The team had a new, proven veteran QB, a young stud RB, a loaded WR room, and an above-average defense. It’s easy to see why almost everyone agreed that this team was in contention to win the AFC West and make a deep playoff run. With the talent on the roster as good as it is, I’ve decided that their downfall can be heavily attributed to two things: injuries and coaching.

Nathaniel Hackett was brought on as the team’s new head coach prior to the 2022 season. He had found a lot of success as the offensive coordinator for the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers over the previous three seasons, and Denver’s front office was confident that he could replicate that success with newly-acquired stud quarterback Russell Wilson, who the team traded multiple first-round picks and players for from the Seahawks.

Any optimism for an elite new coach/QB tandem got crushed early on in the season with the team eclipsing 20 points just twice in the first twelve weeks of the season. To make things look even worse for the offense, the bar was really low. Denver’s defense was among the league’s best and allowed over 20 points just three times in the team’s first twelve games. That put basically every game within reach for the Broncos, but the offense was so bad that even an elite defense couldn’t help them win games. 

Beyond being the primary play caller for the league’s worst offense, Nathaniel Hackett made a series of questionable decisions that led to Denver losing very winnable games. In his debut as a head coach, he burned 40 seconds off of the clock with just a minute left in the game in a crucial 4th & 5 situation for the team. He then brought out kicker Brandon McManus to attempt a 64-yard game-winning field goal at Seattle in primetime. 

He also had an ugly follow-up to that in Week 2’s matchup against the Texans:

Suffice it to say, Hackett was a detriment to this Broncos team. They ended up firing him after a 51-14 loss to the Rams, and they actually ended up playing pretty well in the remaining two games of the season without him. They came within four points of beating the eventual Super Bowl Champion Chiefs in Week 17, and they put up a season-high 31 points in an impressive Week 18 win against the Chargers.

As bad as Hackett was, he wasn’t the only issue this team faced. Injuries riddled this team all throughout, causing players like Javonte Williams, Tim Patrick, Garett Bolles, Justin Simmons, and Randy Gregory to miss extended time on injured reserve.

2023 Outlook

Hope isn’t dead yet, Broncos fans. There are a few reasons to be optimistic for the future. I’ve established that I believe Denver’s main issues last year were injuries and coaching, and I think that both of those are bound to improve this year.

There really isn’t much you can do to avoid injuries besides getting lucky, but they got so unlucky last year that it seems highly probable to improve at least a bit. Javonte Williams has been back at OTA’s after his serious knee injury early last season, and his presence will make a big difference for the offense, even if that comes a few weeks into the season.

Getting Randy Gregory and Garett Bolles back will also help shore up the trenches on both sides of the ball in 2023. Both of those areas lack real depth, so it’ll be crucial for them to be fully healthy and stay that way all year. Tim Patrick is also a good player who can add another weapon on the outside for Russell Wilson if he’s playing at 100%.

The real difference for the Broncos this year, however, is Sean Payton. Denver traded two premium NFL Draft picks to secure the former Saints’ head coach, and for good reason. He’s been one of the best coaches in football over the past decade or so, and there isn’t any question about his ability to lead as there would be with a rookie coach. 

Payton also represents a perfect fix to the offensive problems that the Broncos have been having. They didn’t suffer from a lack of talent, but rather from sub-par utilization of that talent, bad play calling, poor clock management, and bad overall decision-making, and he has proven to be more than capable in all of those areas with the Saints. 

In fact, Payton only coached one team in his career that finished with a below-average OSRS (offensive simple rating system). The Saints were also a top-five scoring offense nine times in Payton’s 15 seasons with the team, and they ended top-twelve or better in the league in points scored in all but one season within the Sean Payton era.

Safe to say, the guy knows how to run an offense, which is exactly what the Broncos were missing last year. He helped elevate Drew Brees to insane heights during his tenure with the team, and Russell Wilson is far from a lost cause. I will grant that he had a terrible year last year, but he certainly is a very talented quarterback who can still be elite in this league with proper coaching and scheming.

One more thing to consider: the Broncos had nine one-score losses in 2022. That number is absolutely insane. That isn’t going to happen again, and they will be able to convert more of those close games with proper game management from this revamped coaching staff. 


In my eyes, there’s no reason that the Broncos shouldn’t be able to win 8-10 games this season. I’m not necessarily predicting that they will, but everything is set up for them to be able to hit that mark, which would put them squarely in the playoff conversation. Their schedule is pretty manageable, and if they can start to swing more of the one-score games, they should be able to take a significant step up from the dumpster fire that they were in 2022. 

If you would have told an NFL fan a few years ago that Sean Payton and Russell Wilson would be teaming up, they would assume that there’s a new powerhouse in the NFL that the rest of the league will dread playing. With an elite coach, a veteran quarterback, an improved offensive line, a healthier roster, and an above-average defense, the Broncos certainly have the potential to be one of the AFC’s most dangerous teams in 2023 if all goes to plan.

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