ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos' 2022 schedule is out, which means it's time to look at the top games on the slate.
With five prime-time games and the traditional six division matchups, there are plenty of intriguing contests to come in Russell Wilson's debut season with the Broncos. After learning the schedule, though, we're choosing the top five matchups that most caught our eye.
5. Week 3, Broncos vs. 49ers
The Broncos' Week 3 matchup is more than just a test against one of the NFL's best teams. It will also be the first home prime-time game in front of a packed house since a Week 7 matchup with the Chiefs in 2019. With the Broncos back on the big stage, they'll have a chance to show the nation what this team is about. San Francisco will pose a tough challenge, as the 49ers were within a field goal of the Super Bowl last season. The Niners still have some uncertainty at the quarterback position — Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance both remain options to line up under center — but their roster ranks among the league's best. And with Kyle Shanahan on the other sideline, the battle will be a matchup of two of the game's top offensive minds.
4. Week 6, Broncos at Chargers
The Chiefs are still the presumed favorite in the AFC West, with the Broncos and Chargers close behind. In this "Monday Night Football" matchup — Denver's second MNF game of the season — we'll get a chance to see which team has the early edge as a challenger for the division crown. This battle is also just one of several games in which Wilson will get a chance to prove himself vs. some of the league's top passers. Justin Herbert threw an impressive 38 touchdowns in 2021, and he'll aim to take another step in 2022. Wilson, meanwhile, will look to prove he remains among the league's best. On a macro level, the Broncos will look to continue its success against LA. Denver has won five of its last seven matchups against the Chargers, including a home win last year in which Pat Surtain II recorded two interceptions.
3. Week 16, Broncos at Rams
A battle with the defending champs is always going to pique our interest, but there's more to this matchup than a game against a strong team. In 2021, the Rams became the second consecutive team to add a veteran quarterback in the offseason and then go on to win the Super Bowl. This meeting on Christmas Day could be an indication of whether the Broncos can join the Bucs and Rams in that lineage. Wilson was 0-2 against Matt Stafford and the Rams last season, but the Broncos should be clicking this late in the season to give themselves a chance at a momentous win. In addition to the on-field aspect of facing Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp and Jalen Ramsey, Denver's Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero and Special Teams Coordinator Dwayne Stukes will return to the face the team with which they won a Super Bowl last year.
2. Week 1, Broncos at Seahawks
This is about as good as season openers get. The quality of the on-field matchup remains to be seen, but no Broncos opener has had this caliber of storylines since the 2016 opener against the Panthers. The primary angle, of course, revolves around Wilson's return to Seattle after spending 10 seasons with the Seahawks and guiding the franchise to a pair of Super Bowl appearances. There's so much more, though. Drew Lock, who is expected to battle Geno Smith for the starting job, could get another chance to prove he's a starting NFL quarterback against the team that drafted him. Noah Fant and Shelby Harris should get their first crack against their former team, as well. And, from a Broncos perspective, it will be our first chance to see a new-look offense and revamped defense — and the new coaching staff that will guide the team.
1. Week 14, Broncos vs. Chiefs
There's no other choice. Until the Broncos beat the Chiefs and end the 13-game skid, Denver's games against Kansas City will be the most intriguing of the year. This season, the Broncos' first meeting with Kansas City — a "Sunday Night Football" matchup at home — should represent Denver's best chance to knock off the Chiefs since 2015. Depending on how the seasons progresses, this matchup could be more than just Denver's opportunity to snap the streak — it may well be for the division lead. The Broncos' primary goal in 2022 is, of course, to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season. If the Broncos can defeat the Chiefs at least once, though, the year will feel that much sweeter — and it may lead Denver back to the top of the division.