Sep 8, 2023 - Sports

The Broncos first attempt at a return to relevance comes against division rival

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson looks to pass during a preseason game on Aug. 19. Photo: RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Everyone loves a good comeback story.

Driving the news: That's the story Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson will hope to star in as he enters his 12th year in the NFL, second in Denver, one season after posting a career-worst 5-12 record.

  • The Broncos season opens Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders in Denver. Kick-off is at 2:25 pm on CBS.

Why it matters: For the team to have any chance of making the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, Wilson will need to get his groove back.

What they're saying: New head coach Sean Payton has taken an approach we will diplomatically call "tough love" to motivate the 34-year-old player.

  • "Will you f---ing stop kissing all the babies?" Payton reportedly told Wilson, according to an ESPN report. "You're not running for public office."
Data: SeatGeek; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: SeatGeek; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

What to watch: Payton is a huge driving force behind a potential bounceback year. Unlike his predecessor, who didn't have any head coaching experience, Payton has won a Super Bowl and went 152-89 while coaching the New Orleans Saints.

  • He's expected to deliver similar results in Denver.

Reality check: ESPN gives the Broncos a 1.3% chance of winning Super Bowl 58.

Who to watch: Cornerback Patrick Surtain, who ranked 49th in the NFL's top 100 players, and may be the team's best player.

  • Safety Justin Simmons, wide receiver Courtland Sutton and running back Jaleel McLaughlin — an undrafted rookie — are other names fans should keep an eye on.

Of note: Broncos fans will need to draw inspiration from the 1999 St. Louis Rams.

  • Despite losing a dozen games the previous season, the team, which would go on to earn the nickname The Greatest Show on Turf, won the Super the next year.

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