I am so excited. Like, not pretend, “it’s the beginning of another football season and anything can happen” excited.
More like, “I may run around screaming for an hour before kickoff” excited.
Heck, maybe two.
And while I know many would think that odd, I’m confident exactly NO ONE who reads this series would think it weird. In fact, I’d be counting on most of you to join me. Either way, I’m 100% certain today’s UFGer would join me as this is the second year in a row he has kicked off this series (primarily because he messages me LONG before I’ve thought about writing the sign-up post to ask about doing Week 1).
But that’s the kind of dedication I’m here for. And I know Russ Wilson is too. Get ready for a fantastic season, ultimate fans.
Week 1: Broncos at Seahawks
MHR - Holy crazy offseason Batman! Lots has happened since we last did this for Week 1, 2021, primarily that I will not have to ask a single question like, ‘are you happy with the choice after the QB competition?’ Halle-freakin-lujah! So…what offseason change will end up being the most important, impactful for the upcoming season? For Broncos football generally?
JasonAult16: The trajectory for the 2022 Broncos season jumped exponentially around noon on March 8 when news hit that Russell Freaking Wilson was being traded to the Broncos. That move gives the Broncos legitimacy. It allows the Broncos to prove that they have really just been “a quarterback away” from being successful. This rising tide will raise all boats at Dove Valley. When this announcement was made, I pretty much was useless at work for the rest of that day. This is obviously the biggest move for this season.
I love the hire of Nathaniel Hackett as head coach. He just seems to enjoy football. His energy is so infectious. I thought Vic was more than adequate at putting together a defensive gameplan, but he seemed just a little bit too stuck in his ways…and I think his refusal to fire Pat Shurmur ultimately cost him his job. Coach Hackett will bring innovation and creativity that I think could rival Big Red who works over in that pit of hell called Arrowhead. He just seems to have that “beautiful football mind” that could draw up some superb offensive game plans. I am excited to see how he can use Russell Wilson to light up the scoreboard.
The most important long-term move for the Broncos was the ownership change. Russell Wilson will leave the Broncos at some point, as will Nathaniel Hackett. The Walton-Penner group will probably be controlling the Broncos for the rest of my life. If they take a page out of Daniel Snyder’s playbook, the franchise will be so beyond screwed. I don’t think that will happen though. They seem to be saying all of the right things so far. They have an incredibly strong ownership group with massive strength in the business world, political world, and racing world. Games obviously will have to be won on the field, but this ownership group will seemingly give the team every resource needed to be successful.
MHR - OK, so we’re agreed that Russell Wilson at QB is damn near magical. Are you concerned that he hasn’t had any live game reps in preseason before his first game as a Bronco - and back at Seattle no less? Would you have liked to have him and the starting offense at least have taken a few reps in the preseason?
JasonAult16: I am not at all worried about that. The first-team units did get some live action against Dallas in the joint practice. All reports from that were incredibly positive. That is good enough for me. You just cannot risk injury in meaningless football games.
MHR - The mantra with Wilson in Seattle the past few seasons has been, “Let Russ cook!” Given that Nathaniel Hackett seems very ready and willing to do that, what is your prediction for the first series by this offense? Is there a long bomb in there early? Does he throw to a known wideout or go a little outside the box and throw to a running back or tight end out of the gate?
JasonAult16: I would not be surprised for Mister Unlimited to go deep early and often. You know that he wants to play well in this game and prove that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. What is helpful is that there is no film out on Russell in this specific offense yet, so he and Hackett could be cooking up some saucy and spicy stuff.
MHR - Aside from Wilson, which offseason free agent addition do you believe will have the biggest impact on the team’s success this year? Which draft pick?
JasonAult16: I am curious to see D.J. Jones at work. He just seems to be a large American (“Black Sheep” movie reference) who will plug up the line of scrimmage. I feel great about the secondary, so winning at the line of scrimmage will be so important.
I am disappointed that Greg Dulcich is starting the season on IR because I am intrigued by what he can do to help the passing game. If he can become a legitimate pass-catching option, the Broncos will be difficult to stop because there are just so many weapons and not enough guys on defense to cover them all.
MHR - Pete Carroll is defensive minded and apparently there is no lost love between him and Russ. What do you expect Carroll to “cook up” for his former QB with the defense?
JasonAult16: Pete Carroll will certainly have an aggressive defensive gameplan. I still vividly remember that crazy nightmare I had where the vaunted 2013 Broncos offense looked absolutely hapless in Super Bowl 48 against The Legion of Boom. I never did hear how that game actually turned out.
The thing is, that Legion of Boom defense is gone. Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, and crew aren’t walking through that door, so as long as Russell can play a clean game and limit self-inflicted mistakes, I don’t know that the Seattle defense will be able to put up as much of a challenge as those great teams from a decade ago.
MHR - To get Russell, Broncos lost Drew Lock, Noah Fant and … Shelby Harris, the only detriment to the Broncos. How do you predict Harris will do against his former team on Monday Night Football…any batted passes?
JasonAult16: Yeah, I hated to see Shelby go. To make a trade to get a future Hall of Famer like Russ, the Broncos were going to have to give something that made you grit your teeth a little. Shelby was that. You know that he will be motivated as well. I would not be surprised to see him bat down a pass at some point. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen often though.
"We can be the best D-line in the NFL as long as we continue to work hard, stay healthy and lean on each other."@djjones_44 and @TheOfficial_80 are ready to dominate on the defensive line » https://t.co/pGVhPUAUkp pic.twitter.com/euA0C6hqeL— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 9, 2022
MHR - The most touchdowns Geno Smith has ever had in a season is 13, and his average yards passing per game is just over 150. Does the Broncos defense decimate him and the Seahawks offense before the half on MNF?
JasonAult16: The defense just needs to play solid, cover their assignments (don’t blow coverages), not commit stupid penalties, and take advantage of opportunities for turnovers. Geno Smith won’t wow the Broncos with any superior play. Set the tone early and don’t let an inferior team hang around. That’s how the better team gets beat in the NFL.
MHR - We haven’t seen the first-team defense in action, but there are high expectations for every position. Which group - edge, D-line, inside linebackers, d-backs - have the toughest job on Monday, and which group has to overperform this season to maintain a defensive dominance in the AFC West?
JasonAult16: I truly believe that games are won in the trenches. In today’s NFL, offenses will eventually find holes in pass coverage and rack up passing yards, ESPECIALLY in this loaded AFC West division. So the secondary can play well and still give up yards. It’s just gonna happen. If the Broncos defense can be tough in run situations and get a solid pass rush, that will be so helpful to the team achieving its goals of playing in the postseason.
MHR - Playing at Lumen Field is one of the loudest stadiums to play. It’s also Wilson’s former home of 10 seasons. How emotional do you think it’ll be for him and will this work to his advantage or be a hurdle he’s not quite prepared for?
JasonAult16: Yow know he’ll be emotional, but I also think he’ll be working with quite a chip on his shoulder. As I mentioned earlier, it will help that this is the first game, so I think he will have an easier time prepping for Pete Carroll’s defensive game plan than Pete Carroll will have preparing for the Broncos offense. That all said, once the game gets going, all of the emotion will go out the window. It will be all about getting a victory. If the Broncos can get off to a strong start and make the crowd a non-factor, that will be helpful.
MHR - This game will be the first MNF of 2022 for the Manning Cast. How many times do you expect Peyton to dis Manny Ramirez during this broadcast? How many digs from Eli about not handling a high snap are you planning on?
JasonAult16: I am so looking forward to this. I have always enjoyed the ManningCast, especially because I have never really cared about the game that they were covering. This will be the first time the Broncos have appeared on ManningCast, so I am curious to see how/if that changes my viewing experience. Since Peyton still associates with the Broncos, you know that he will be subtly/not-so-subtly pulling for the Broncos to win.
MHR - I asked this last year on the first game, but it feels appropriate again. After five six losing seasons, how important is it for franchise morale to get a win on Week 1 and on Monday Night Football? How important is it for fan base morale for the entire season? Finally…what if (not jinxing it, not jinxing it) Broncos don’t walk out of Seattle with a win and Wilson loses to his former coach/team…what could that do to morale?
JasonAult16: For the Broncos to achieve their goals, this is a game that they have to win. The Broncos are better than the Seahawks. They have waited all of these months to build up to this season opener. Starting off 0-1 would be a major buzzkill and would fire up the “oh boy, here we go again” negative vibes in Broncos Country and give the RW3 naysayers ammunition on the argument that the Broncos made a bad decision in trading for him. First and foremost, the Broncos obviously need to win, but I also want to see them play well.
Practice makes perfect https://t.co/yO3ei4t63g— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) September 9, 2022
Stats for RUSSELL “LET’S RIDE” WILSON? 25/30, 300 yards, 3 TDs
Stats for each Broncos RB? Javonte Williams, 80 yards and a TD. Melvin Gordon, 70 yards.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for all 187 receivers? Courtland Sutton, 120 yards and a TD. Jerry Jeudy, 70 yards and a TD. KJ Hamler, 50 yards. Others 60 yards with another receiving TD somewhere.
Longest FG for McManus? 45 yards
Number of sacks to Wilson? 1 sack somewhere. Unfortunate, but it’ll probably happen at some point.
Number of sacks to Geno Smith? 4 sacks
Broncos player with the most tackles? Josey Jewell
Who gets the first regular season sack for the Broncos? The most? Bradley Chubb gets a couple sacks to lead the way
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? Simmons INT and a strip sack fumble recovery from Chubb
How many times will the Network show Pete Carroll with a scowl? Too many to count
How many hugs will Coach Hackett give after the game? Also too many to count. Heck, I will want to hug the guy.
Final Score? The Broncos take the game in a resounding 31-14 victory, which will be a great start to a season that will see the Broncos back in the playoffs where they belong.
Favorite Broncos game in the Jake Plummer era? (hehehehe) The 2005 Divisional Round win against the Patriots is the only correct answer here, so I will mention a couple of the fantastic regular season wins from that 2005 season. Beating the Patriots during that regular season was a huge win that showed that they could be a Super Bowl contender. The Broncos also had a dominating win against the Chiefs on MNF early that season that set the season on the right path after a bit of a shaky start.
Team you laugh at the most in the AFC West? Unfortunately, I have not been able to laugh at the division foes often in recent seasons, but the Raiders usually do some stupid stuff that generate some giggles.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Easy answer. I live behind enemy lines in the middle of Chiefs territory, so I thoroughly enjoy the opportunities to beat them…though again, that has not happened for awhile. That needs to change…PRONTO.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the rest of the AFC? The Ravens, Steelers, and Patriots have all had moments in recent years that have drawn my ire.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC? Previous answer also applies, because it usually means that the Broncos have won a tough game against a quality team when beating one of those teams.
NFC team you cannot stand? Not quite as much anymore, but I used to HATE the Dallas Cowboys, especially because my family lived in Oklahoma in the early 90s when the Cowboys won back-to-back titles. Jerry Jones still makes me want to punch a hole in the wall. It was ridiculous that he was put into the Hall of Fame before Pat Bowlen, especially when Mr. B was running short on time to be able to enjoy such an honor.
NFC team you want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? This year, I would pick a team from the eastern part of the country without a fanbase that travels well so that the Broncos fans have an easier time taking over Glendale. Maybe Tampa Bay. It would be fun to send Tom Brady into retirement with a big fat loss.
Favorite game looking forward to this season? I am currently slated to go to the Jets game on October 23 and the Cardinals game on December 18. I am also keeping my schedule clear for the weekend of January 13-15. Not only would I be thrilled to see another Broncos home playoff game, but since my dad’s birthday was on January 15, I think that would be a fitting time to take my son, Denver William Ault, to his first Broncos game.
Toughest game on the schedule? Until further notice, the Chiefs are the top dogs, and beating them at Arrowhead is never easy, especially late in the season. Hopefully, their fans are a little too hungover from New Year’s celebrations to be too crazy for a noon kickoff.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Justin Simmons. He is a tremendous player and, more importantly, an even better man. The Broncos are fortunate to have several who fall into that category…guys who can be examples of good role models for my children (Justin Simmons, Russell Wilson, Dalton Risner immediately come to mind).
Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? Wow. That’s like choosing between my children. My answer probably changes daily, but for now, I will go with Shannon Sharpe. Dude was and still is a physical specimen. He was on the receiving end of so many big throws from The Duke. Shannon played with such a swagger. His “call to the President” in New England will never not be funny.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Russell Wilson is the “too easy” answer, so I will go with Greg Dulcich. Not only am I intrigued to see him play, but his locks are impeccable. I wish I could pull off having that kind of luscious hair.
Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? There is a pizza chain in the midwest called Pizza Ranch. I noticed that they have a bake-at-home pizza that would be very appropriate to get for Denver games. It is an all-meat pizza called BRONCO. I definitely need to get that for my game day snack.
Favorite game analyst/commentator? Mark Schlereth. Witty commentary and he calls it like he sees it. He obviously loves the Broncos but isn’t afraid to call them out when they are playing poorly. Stink is a heckuva nice guy too. I met him years ago when my buddies and I took a Broncos trip. He did a terrific Cameo video for another dear friend of mine too. It is a special talent to make someone laugh and cry in the same video.
Which sports cliche best describes the Broncos? One game at a time. This Broncos team has the talent to play deep into January and February. Just have to take it one game at a time though.
NEW FINAL QUESTION!
When you take your son to his first Broncos game (this year or next), which Ring of Fame statues are you going to lecture to him about even though he won’t care at all…yet?
John Elway is a given. Pat Bowlen is another important one since he obviously set the standard for the winning culture while leading the Broncos. Denver Dude will hear a lot about Peyton Manning, not just the insane attention to detail that he put into competing but also the great work that he has done off the field. I will point out guys from the first Super Bowl championship squad, telling him of how nobody outside of Denver gave the Broncos a chance to win that game but how they believed in each other and came together to bring home the first Lombardi Trophy to the Mile High City. Demaryius Thomas is not represented in the Ring of Fame…yet, but Little Guy will also hear so many stories about my all-time favorite witnessed sports moment ever: the Tebow-Thomas touchdown to beat the Steelers, which of course is so bittersweet now with DT’s very untimely death last December.
I am patient enough to wait for the proper time to take Denver to his first Broncos game. That said, I am so beyond excited for whenever it finally happens. My dad passed away 15 years ago. I always think of him when I go to Broncos games. It will be incredible to take that bond of Broncos fandom that Dad shared with me and pass it onto my beloved son in his namesake city, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. Tears will definitely be shed that day.
Thank you so much, Laurie. I always enjoy the opportunity to share my thoughts on our beloved Broncos with you. Here’s hoping that this season ends in Glendale with Rob Walton or George Paton shouting, “This one’s for Russ!”