ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A year ago, the Broncos were perhaps the most-hyped team in the league and the NFL's schedule-makers treated them as such, originally slotting Denver to play five games in prime time and a sixth national broadcast with the international game in London.
That included four prime-time matchups in the first six weeks of the season. With a new quarterback in Russell Wilson, the Broncos' matchups with the Seahawks, 49ers, Colts and Chargers were highly anticipated. But while the games were all very close — all decided by three or fewer points, including two that were decided in overtime — the defense-heavy battles left something to be desired for national audiences, it seemed. As the team continued to struggle later in the year, the Broncos' Week 14 game was flexed out of "Sunday Night Football."
Regardless of those woes, the Broncos were not punished much as a new season awaits; the NFL's schedule-makers and broadcast partners placed four prime-time games on Denver’s 2023 schedule.
According to the NFL vice president of broadcast planning Mike North, having a new coach in Sean Payton and continued respect for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson still made Denver a desirable team for several of the league's biggest broadcast opportunities.
"When we met with our network partners, as we do every year, and we talk about, 'Hey, which games are you most interested in, which teams are you most interested in,' there was no one who said, 'No more Denver, please,'" North said Friday on a conference call with national media. "Absolutely not. Everybody, in fact, I think is pretty intrigued by the new coach, and that quarterback was extremely successful in this league for a long time, maybe had a down year, maybe deserves a little bit of a grace period. So, there were none of our partners that came in and said, 'Absolutely not.' And to a certain extent, we felt the same. … Maybe not six or seven national games like we did last year, but certainly not unwilling to see them in national windows. It'll be an interesting story one way or another all the way through."
North said there was even consideration to put the Broncos in prime time for the national kickoff game against the Chiefs in Week 1 — though they considered several other opponents, as well — before settling on Chiefs-Lions for the league's season opener.
The Broncos' four prime-time games are as follows:
Week 6: Broncos at Chiefs on "Thursday Night Football" (Oct. 12 at 6:15 p.m. MT on Prime Video)
Week 10: Broncos at Bills on "Monday Night Football" (Nov. 13 at 6:15 p.m. MT on ESPN)
Week 11: Broncos vs. Vikings on "Sunday Night Football" (Nov. 19 at 6:20 p.m. MT on NBC)
Week 16: Broncos vs. Patriots (Dec. 24 at 6:15 p.m. on NFL Network)