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'Prime time every single time': Broncos propelled by common goal of winning stacked AFC West

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos took the field this week for voluntary veteran minicamp, their focus remained constant.

In the months leading up to the 2022 regular season, Denver has a singular goal — and it's not complicated.

Win the West.

It's emblazoned on T-shirts and in UCHealth Training Center, and it's become a rallying cry of sorts for the team under new Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett.

For good reason, too. If the Broncos want to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season, their division record has to improve. The 13-game losing streak to the Chiefs is well-noted, but the Broncos have also dropped five of six contests to the Raiders.

Denver has not posted a division record above .500 since 2015, and the Broncos have not won a division road game since early in the 2019 season. In all, the Broncos are 5-13 in division since the start of 2019 and 11-25 since the start of 2016.

And thus, the Broncos' emphasis on improving in — and winning — their division has been intense.

"It's super important," Justin Simmons said. "We all know what it's been like the past five years playing in the West. [It's] my opinion, but you can argue this is the best division in football. The Chiefs, the Raiders, the Chargers and now us. We've got Russ[ell Wilson] and a bunch of additions — Randy Gregory, D.J. Jones, Ka'Waun [Williams]. I could go down the list of guys that we've got, but it's going to be like prime time every single time an AFC West game is on. It's going to be all chips in the middle of the table any time [two] of those four teams are playing each other. You've got to embrace it. Part of being a competition, man, is embracing the best parts of it. If you want to be the best, you've got to go up against the best. We're in the best division, so man, what a way to go into the postseason if you're on top of that division.

"That's really all that's at the top of our mind and we preach it every single day, how important it is to win the West. It's going to be a great year."

Wide receiver Tim Patrick searched first for the "politically correct" answer when asked about the importance of improving in the division, but he eventually settled for a simple explanation of the Broncos' mindset.

"They can all get it," Patrick said. "They're coming for us, and we're coming for them."

When the practices get tougher and the grind of the season sets in, the Broncos believe the common goal will help propel them forward.

"It's always your mindset going into everything," Offensive Coordinator Justin Outten said. "You win your division, you're sitting in a really good spot in the playoffs and you're pushing for home-field advantage. So we're always pushing to win the West. That's the No. 1 mindset. When you get tired and it gets hot and things are kind of mixed in your brain because of the concepts, you've got to realize — focus on what you're here to do. It's not just to get a paycheck, it's to win the division and win everything and be proud to be a champion.

"Having those high standards is what Coach Hackett has ingrained in the entire organization, and everyone is buying in so far, which has been fun."

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