After an incredibly underwhelming 2022 season, the Denver Broncos quickly parted ways with first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos swung for the fences and made a blockbuster move for Sean Payton, who officially became the 20th head coach in franchise history.
With the 2022 season being nothing short of disappointing, the expectations are understandably high for Payton and the Broncos in 2023. Will they be able to make strides in the direction of success? Or will they fall short of expectations again?
1. The Broncos will be competitive again in the AFC West
Ever since the retirement of Peyton Manning in 2016, the Broncos have essentially been a doormat in the AFC West. Yes, they’ve won a few games against their division rivals, but a majority of the time they’ve been no threat to the AFC West crown.
The AFC West is an insanely difficult division that includes the likes of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Los Angeles Chargers have been on the verge of something great, but cannot figure out how to cross that line into greatness. And the Las Vegas Raiders seem to be on a crash course toward a rebuild.
If the Broncos want a shot at being AFC West champs again, the biggest obstacle standing in their way will be the Chiefs. With the acquisition of Sean Payton, the Broncos should ideally put up more of a fight in their division than they have in recent years.
In the 15 seasons that Payton was the head coach of the Saints, the Saints were crowned NFC South champions seven times. From 2017 to 2020, the Saints were NFC South champions for four consecutive seasons.
Speaking of consecutive, the Broncos currently have a multi-season losing streak against the Chiefs that dates back to 2015. Expect Payton and the Broncos to finally snap that streak in 2023.
2. Payton will bring the best out of Russell Wilson
Wilson had his worst season statistically in 2022. With how much the Broncos gave up to acquire Wilson, his poor play in his first season really left fans feeling worried that his best playing days may be a thing of the past.
With how poorly the Broncos’ offense performed in 2022, it’d be pretty difficult to regress even further, considering they were about as bad as it gets. With Payton being an extremely successful and offensive-minded head coach, the Broncos’ offense will likely show improvement in 2023. But the big question remains: exactly how much improvement will there be? Some optimistic fans are already predicting a Broncos playoff berth.
With how adaptive Payton can be with whoever is quarterbacking his offense, he should curate an offense that will bring the best out of Wilson. After all, Payton is likely Wilson’s last hope to salvage the 2nd act of his career.
3. Payton becomes a Coach of the Year candidate
We’re talking bold predictions here, so why not shoot for the stars? In 2023, Sean Payton will improve the Broncos enough to garner some looks for Coach of the Year honors. This doesn’t mean the Broncos will find themselves back in the Super Bowl in one season, though. Merely the Broncos will show significant offensive improvement, find themselves ending the season with a winning record, and maybe end up in first or second place in the AFC West.
New York Giants first-year and first-time head coach Brian Daboll helped coach the team to a winning record and playoff berth. Like the Broncos, the Giants had been in a weird limbo for years that included shuffling through head coaches and being disappointing. There wasn’t much expected of the Giants in Daboll’s first season, but he managed to help turn the Giants back in the right direction for the future. In his first season, Daboll became a finalist for Coach of the Year. Payton obviously isn’t a first-time head coach, but who says he can’t do something similar to what Daboll did in his first season as head coach?