As we inch closer to the regular season, the season predictions will come rolling in — and at least one of ESPN's top football analysts believes Denver will win its first AFC West title since 2015.
"Any of them can [win it]," said ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky on the Pat McAfee Show. "The team that I've said I feel is going to win it — and I still feel that way — is Denver."
Orlovsky detailed a couple of reasons for his prediction, beginning with the scenario in which Russell Wilson will find himself.
"I think Russ is obviously a tremendous player," Orlovsky said. "I don't think Russ has ever had the situation offensively that he has in Denver [with] elite scheme and play-calling — and that's this offense that comes from Kyle Shanahan, Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak [and] Nathaniel Hackett, at least in Green Bay. [Hackett] seems to have been a great play-caller when he had the opportunities to do that, matched with really high-end talent. I think the skill position people in Denver are really talented. I don't think Russ has ever had those two together. He's had some really high in skill in Seattle, but I don't think he's ever had the scheme to match it at the same time."
The scheme, Orlovsky said, should allow Denver to win games in a variety of ways — including when the team isn't able to Let Russ Cook.
"I think the reason why I say Denver — and I have — is they're the one offense in the division that can do whatever is necessary offensively," Orlovsky said. "When a defense is going to come out and say, 'We're going to force you to run the ball 40 times to beat us. We're not going to give you any shots over the top and give you a chance to throw the deep ball,' I think they're the one team schematically that is willing and capable of calling and doing it that way. The Chargers haven't proven that. I know the Chiefs haven't proven that. And the Raiders haven't. And that's one of the reasons why."
The Broncos will begin their chase for an AFC West title in a little more than three weeks, but their first divisional matchup won't arrive until Week 4.
In a span of seven games, the Broncos will play three divisional games — and that should provide the first indication of whether Orlovsky's prediction will ring true.
Below the Fold
Pat Surtain II draws much of the attention among the Broncos' cornerbacks, but two new faces have added a spark to the secondary.
Cornerbacks Damarri Mathis and Faion Hicks, two rookies selected by the Broncos in the 2022 NFL Draft, have been making themselves known throughout training camp and the preseason, The Denver Post's Kyle Newman reported. Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett raved about their quick adjustments to playing at the professional level.
"Both those guys have exceeded my expectations," Hackett said. "Anytime you've got rookies coming in, you always have second-guesses as a coach as to how much they're going to be able to contribute to your team. And I think for both those guys, both on special teams and defense, they have shown that [the stage] is not too big for them."