ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Justin Simmons is not avoiding the Broncos' reality.
As the Broncos prepare for a matchup with the Jets, which he called Denver's "biggest game of the year," Simmons knows where the team stands.
At 2-4 and on a three-game skid, Denver currently sits at 12th place in the AFC — and the team may need a win against the Jets to keep their season afloat.
Simmons, though, believes there's a way to marry that reality with the unrealized potential of this Broncos team.
"It's recognizing that we are who we are," Simmons said. "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."
A year ago, three of the 14 playoff teams began the season with a 2-4 record. New England, Philadelphia and San Francisco all rebounded from difficult starts, and the 49ers advanced all the way to the NFC Championship game. The teams, though, figured things out quickly from their tough starts. The Patriots ripped off seven consecutive wins after their 2-4 start, and the 49ers won four of their next five games. The Eagles dropped to 2-5 — and later 3-6 — but they then won six of seven to help earn a playoff bid.
In a crowded AFC playoff picture, there's still a chance for the Broncos to find success — and Simmons believes they have the needed pieces.
"For me, I believe in that [possibility] with the guys that we have, offense, defense, special teams [and] coaches," Simmons said. "We have everything we need in this building, and we've just got to believe in each other, block out the noise and just focus on the task at hand — and that's the Jets on Sunday."
Simmons' unit, of course, has found more success than the offense. Quarterback Russell Wilson, though, also believes in the success his unit can find. Wilson pointed to the Broncos' first-quarter performance and their last drive of the first half as examples of what the Broncos can achieve.
"I think that's who we are and who we can be," Wilson said.
Wilson also knows the Broncos must operate at that level on a more consistent basis.
"There's a lot more we can do, and we can break these games away, especially as great as our defense is doing," Wilson said. "The momentum, the tempo — when we can capture it, feed off of it like we did, we got the big play to Jerry [Jeudy] and then next thing you know, we get in the end zone. Those are the moments we've got to have, and finding more of those is really going to help us."
Wilson said he can feel "the great moments coming" and believes that the Broncos are on the verge of finding much-needed wins.
With three of their losses coming by a combined seven points, it's clear the Broncos have been close. But for the questions about the offensive struggles or special teams errors, Denver must get back in the win column.
"Winning heals all wounds," Wilson said. "And that's what we need to do, is win."
WASHINGTON TO REMAIN AT PUNT RETURNER
Rookie Montrell Washington muffed two punts against the Chargers — losing the latter when P.J. Locke was blocked into him — but Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Washington will "of course" remain the team's starting returner.
"He's a young man," Hackett said. "He's done a really good job. He's had some very explosive plays. We can see he is a very dynamic returner. He just needs to lock in and focus and catch the ball first."
Washington ranks fifth in the league in punt return average among qualifying returners.
BRONCOS TO HONOR SUPER BOWL XXXII CHAMPIONS VS. JETS
The Broncos will hold a halftime ceremony to honor the 25th anniversary of their first world championship season, and Hackett spoke highly of Denver's 1997 squad.
"As a team, you're always looking to try to win the Super Bowl," Hackett said. "It's so difficult to do. There's so many things that have to fall into a line and fall into place. The fact that those guys did that — I remember watching that team a long time ago — I have so much respect for them and all the things that those guys accomplished. They're such a good football team, and [I'm] honored to be on the same field as them and part of the same organization. Would love for them to be able to say something to the team, all that. It takes a whole team, and that was a true team, that whole group. We're very excited to see them all."