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Payton on Week 1: ‘It’s like a test. You think you’re ready but you’re anxious to see’

He insists the home opener against a hated rival is no different than any other Week 1. Whatever. Just win.

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

After a quiet practice week in Denver - where the most drama leading up to the Week 1 game was coming out of the Raiders’ camp - it should be a raucous season opener as Broncos play host to our least favorite NFL team but one of our favorite teams to beat.

And while that has not happened nearly enough in the recent past, this revived team under Sean Payton is planning to change that.

Because it’s not just a Week 1 game. It’s a rivalry game.

“Obviously you want to play well. It’s a home game. It’s a division game. It’s our first game.” - Head coach Sean Payton.

“It’s the Raiders. A lot of history between these two teams. We got to create a new history by playing one game and trying to win that game.” - Quarterback Russell Wilson

“We’ve got an early test going up against a division opponent in the Raiders. I already know the anticipation is going to be high. We’re preparing well. We’re ready.” - Cornerback Patrick Surtain II

“Those division games hit a little closer to home. To start the season off with the Raiders at home, there’s no better way to start the season than to take care of business against a division opponent.” - Wide receiver Courtland Sutton

This is the ninth time in NFL history that the Broncos have opened against the Raiders, and the Broncos lead that matchup 5-3, going 4-1 on the home field contests.

But Denver has dropped the last six games to this AFC West rival, and Broncos Country is beyond ready for that to change.

Payton maintains that this Week 1 doesn’t feel any different than any of his previous ones, but he did admit he’s anxious to evaluate where the Broncos are right now.

“You’re anxious as a coach to see what you have,” he said, adding that in the first quarter of the season that is revealed. “There’s a race to improve for every team immediately. Who’s getting better? I don’t think it feels any different than any of the other Week 1s that I’ve been a part of. …It’s like a teacher that you’ve had a whole semester and you’re getting a big exam. You think you’re doing well, but you’re anxious to see.”

One of the best offense-defense matchups in the NFL has been Broncos’ Pat Surtain against Raiders Davante Adams.

Surtain is looking forward to that test again.

“I’m always looking forward to those battles. He’s a good player. I’m a good player. Iron sharpens iron, so he’s only going to make me better,” Surtain said. “He’s a savvy veteran. Not only does he have all the attributes, he’s very smart so just getting on top of the film study is very vital too.”

But Adams won’t be the only weapon. In fact, running back Josh Jacobs is perhaps the player who has done the most damage to this team.

Josh Jacobs is 7-0 against the Broncos and gashed the team for more than 200 yards last season. But Denver’s defense held opponents to under 20 points in 10 games last year and its new defensive coordinator was able to keep Jacobs’ damage to a minimum against his Cardinals’ defense.

Although Vance Joseph downplayed that a little, his team did keep Jacobs to 3.5 yards per carry.

“They’ve evolved a lot since that game,” Joseph said. “Obviously our plan is stopping their best people.”

Las Vegas Raiders’ new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is also a bit of an unknown after years playing against Derek Carr.

Head coach Sean Payton is quite familiar with the former Eastern Illinois quarterback as they both played mainly in the NFC and share the same alma mater.

Fun fact - Payton is one of two QBs from that school to have his number retired. The other is Tony Romo.

But Garoppolo broke a few of Payton’s records there and you know the coach was paying attention.

“I think he ended up breaking everyone’s records [at Eastern Illinois],” Payton said. “He had a great career there and he’s doing well in this league.”

Regardless, the Denver Broncos are all too familiar with Josh McDaniels so the matchup will be a tough one no matter who is at QB.

And the main goal will be for the Broncos’ offense to do the scoring.

Payton hinted at the increased use of the running game in this matchup and said he’s excited to watch all his backs run - both Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine.

“It’ll be good. I told Williams and Perine both, ‘I’m anxious to see you guys run.’ They’ve gotten a lot of work, and yet, both of them are new to me,” the coach said. “As we’re going through goal line and short yardage, someone’s going to get those reps. Those two will be very active in the game.”

And despite a bit of a depleted wideout room with Jerry Jeudy limited from a hamstring injury, Cortland Sutton is looking forward to making big contributions this week and this entire season in Sean Payton’s offense.

“It’s going to be fun to see how coach game plans and puts the pieces together and puts guys in position to go score touchdowns because we have the guys who can do it, we have the quarterback and we have the coaches,” said Courtland Sutton. “It’s just on upon us to make sure we are walking away with six or seven. And if we do that, we’ll win a lot of games this year.”

Let’s hope so because I can’t stand losing to the Raiders.