Take a look inside the Broncos' week of practice with photos from team photographers.
DENVER — The Broncos need a win.
As they prepare to host the New York Jets, there's no other way to put it.
A 2-1 start has given way to a 2-4 record following a three-game losing streak, and the Broncos currently sit in the bottom half of the AFC standings. If the Broncos hope to make a run to the postseason, they'll need to quickly right the ship to keep pace in the playoff race and make up ground.
There is precedent to what the Broncos hope to accomplish, though. In 2021, three of the 14 playoff teams began the season 2-4, as the Eagles, Patriots and 49ers all got off to slow starts. The 49ers rebounded from that record to come within three points of a Super Bowl bid.
"It's recognizing that we are who we are," Justin Simmons said this week. "We're sitting here at 2-4, 0-2 in the West. There's no, 'Yeah, put that to the side.' That's who we are. But it's also recognizing that there's still plenty of ball left to change our season around. We've seen in years past with different teams, as soon as you get a couple of wins under your belt and you're on that streak, you just find that rhythm and you just hit the ground running."
The Broncos have plenty of work to do if they are to reach the playoffs, but their point differential suggests they are closer than their record would suggest. Denver ranked 16th in point differential entering Week 7, and three of the team's four losses have come by a combined seven points.
With one of the league's best defenses, the Broncos should continue to be in plenty of games. If they hope to change the tone of their season, though, they'll need to convert those close calls into results.
With the Super Bowl XXXII champions looking on, the Broncos will have an opportunity to take a necessary first step against the 4-2 New York Jets.
These are the questions that will decide if the Broncos can snap a three-game losing streak:
CAN BRETT RYPIEN GUIDE THE OFFENSE TO SUCCESS?
The Broncos' task of earning a win this weekend won't be any easier without their starting quarterback, as Russell Wilson was downgraded to out on Saturday.
In his place, Brett Rypien will make his second career start and aim to guide the Broncos to victory.
Rypien's previous start came in Week 4 of the 2020 season and was coincidentally against the Jets, as well. The Boise State product completed 19-of-31 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in that game, and the Broncos put up 37 points in a win.
Rypien has thrown just two regular-season pass attempts since that prime-time win, but he completed more than 67 percent of his passes and posted an 85.5 quarterback rating in the 2022 preseason as he won the backup job.
Despite a lack of recent game time, Rypien said he was eager for the opportunity.
"It'd be great," Rypien said on Friday of a potential start. "I had one against the same team. Obviously, this is what you dream of to do in the NFL. You want to play, and you want to get opportunities."
As Rypien steps into the role, he'll try to boost an offense that has averaged a league-worst 15.2 points per game. The Broncos have broken the 20-point mark just once, and they'll face another test as they go against New York's top-10 scoring defense.
Defensive lineman Quinnen Williams will provide a particularly tough challenge on the interior of the line, as the Alabama product leads the Jets with five sacks this season. Standout rookie Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner may also prove difficult to throw at on the outside of the defense.
Still, Rypien received reps with the starters this week, and Offensive Coordinator Justin Outten said the Broncos had a separate game plan designed for Rypien.
If Rypien can the ball quickly to his playmakers, get help from the running game and avoid turnovers, the Broncos should have a chance to find offensive success.
CAN THE BRONCOS' DEFENSE MAKE THE JETS ONE-DIMENSIONAL?
If the Broncos are going to knock off the Jets, they'll likely need another strong performance from their defense.
Denver's defense ranks near the top of the league in nearly every statistical category, but they'll be challenged by several Jets.
Running back Breece Hall leads all rookies in all-purpose yards with 391 rushing yards and 218 receiving yards to go with his four touchdowns. First-round rookie Garrett Wilson has also shown flashes opposite of leading receiver Corey Davis.
Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson returned to the lineup in Week 4, but the former second-overall pick has not been forced to carry the load for New York. Wilson has thrown the ball just 39 times over the last two weeks and has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions since re-entering the lineup.
With the exception of a Week 4 stumble against the Raiders, the Broncos' defense has been quite strong vs. the run. If the unit can limit Hall and force the Jets into third-and-long scenarios, they may have a chance to change the game.
"It's very similar to what you see from [San Francisco], from Green Bay and from our offense," Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero said. "[There are] a lot of similar concepts. At the end of the day, all of these teams want to run the ball, and they have a variety of creative schemes to get it done. We've got to be ready for the run game."
The Broncos know Wilson has talent — his draft position is evidence of that — but their best option may be to force the young player into difficult situations against a fierce pass rush and dominant secondary.
Against the Packers in Week 6, the Jets were just 1-of-11 on third down, but they avoided turnovers. If the Broncos can limit the Jets on third down again, find a way to take the ball away and stand strong in the red zone, Denver should be in position to limit New York's offense.
WILL THE BRONCOS CLEAN UP THEIR SPECIAL TEAMS PERFORMANCE?
In Week 6, the Broncos made plenty of errors, but a muffed punt in overtime was the final straw that led to a loss.
Against the Jets, the Broncos must find a way to avoid that type of mistake. Rookie returner Montrell Washington ranks fifth in the league in punt return average among qualifying returners, but he has fumbled three times over the last two games. Washington was able to recover two of those fumbles — one of which came on a kickoff return — but both communication and ball security must be better against the Jets.
"He's done a good job — or a great job — of protecting the ball besides those two instances [against the Chargers]," Special Teams Coordinator Dwayne Stukes said. "I'm not going to beat Montrell up. You got to encourage him to get back to what he was doing versus Las Vegas, etc. That's how I handled that."
The Jets, meanwhile, used their special teams unit to help earn a win against the Packers. Leading 10-3 in the third quarter, the Jets blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to provide a 14-point buffer. The Packers would never truly challenge them again.
With Rypien at the helm against a strong New York defense, this game figures to shape up as a tight battle. If the Broncos are going to earn a win, they cannot give the Jets free possessions or momentum-altering plays.
For tickets to #NYJvsDEN, click here.