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Broncos season opener against the Raiders is a must-win game

Can the first game of the season truly be a must-win for the Denver Broncos? Absolutely.

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

Good morning, Broncos Country!

For the past six seasons the Denver Broncos have been a losing franchise. Moreover, they’ve earned the dubious distinction of being the bottom dwellers of the AFC West. Without question, Denver’s penchant for losing has left a rotten taste in mouths of fans who are eager to chew on something different for once.

It’d be tremendous to see our beloved Broncos start things out on the right foot. An opening game victory against the Las Vegas Raiders sounds pretty appetizing, don’t you think? Definitely much better than the alternative.

The Broncos have dropped seven of their last eight games against the Raiders dating back to 2019. They haven’t figured out a way to stop Josh Jacobs, but in order to win this Sunday they are going to have to. If they don’t—that could spell trouble.

While it’s only the first game of the season—it’s a must-win in my opinion for Denver. Securing a victory would be a great way to set the tone early-on in the year. It’d help instill confidence in a group of players who by in large, haven’t experienced much success in the National Football League.

In my opinion, a notch in the win column against the Raiders would be an important first step to proving themselves a capable foe within the AFC West. After all, you can’t establish a winning culture by being losers, right? That being said, if you can’t compete and win in your division, you really can’t expect to do so against teams across the league.

While Head Coach Sean Payton didn’t go as far as saying Sunday’s matchup against the Raiders was a must-win game, he did acknowledge the importance of starting off good and taking care of business early on in the season.

“We’ve lost opening games before in New Orleans to teams that weren’t as good, but our better teams are teams that generally started fast,” stated Payton. “Obviously, you want to play well. It’s a home game. It’s a division game. It’s our first game.”

Under Payton’s guidance, the Saints were routinely competitive in their Week 1 endeavors. While acknowledging that being important, he added that the best teams were the ones who put series of winning streaks together to embark on double-digit victories.

If the Broncos want to get serious about changing their culture and getting back their winning ways—starting of the year with a ‘W’ against their rivals would help set the tone to achieve those aspirations for the rest of the season. It’s been a long time since they took care of business against their divisional foes. It’s time for that to change.

Not eventually. Not somewhere down the road. That needs to happen now in their game against the Raiders

As always, thank you for reading. Listed below is a slate of stories for today’s installment of Horse Tracks.

(P.S., don’t forget to listen to my first podcast for Mile High Report embedded at the top of the article — where I talk about several big expectations for the Broncos in 2023.)

Broncos News and Tidbits

Broncos' Manhertz is ready to help protect against Crosby
Riley Dixon is back punting for the Broncos. Tremon Smith may or may not be the Broncos' kickoff returner.

Everything Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said before opening game vs. Denver Broncos
The Las Vegas Raiders open the regular season on Sunday against the Denver Broncos and coach Josh McDaniels spoke about the team on Wednesday.

Chandler Jones not at Raiders facility and his status is uncertain for opener at Denver
Defensive end Chandler Jones was not at the Las Vegas facility on Wednesday.

Courtland Sutton on Sean Payton’s Raiders plan for short-handed Broncos receivers: “It’s going to be fun”
The Broncos have three healthy wide receivers on their 53-man roster heading into Week 1 against Las Vegas. Even still, Courtland Sutton has confidence in the group and in Sean Payton's plan.

Sean Payton is out to fix the Broncos’ offense. That starts with a Russell Wilson rebound
Sean Payton's mission in 2023 is to fix the Denver Broncos' long-stagnant offense and that starts with resurrecting quarterback Russell Wilson's career.

Broncos' Russell Wilson on critics: 'Used to' facing doubts
Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, who faced heavy criticism amid a rough debut season in Denver, said he's "used to some of those who believe and some of those who doubt."

NFL News and Tidbits

NFL coach hot seat rankings entering Week 1: Commanders' Ron Rivera, Saints' Dennis Allen in dire need of wins -
These coaches are on watch heading into 2023.

Nine last-minute predictions for 2023 NFL season: Josh Allen wins MVP, 49ers win Super Bowl LVIII
Is Justin Jefferson about to make history? Are we about to see a first-time MVP? Can Justin Fields make the leap? And who'll win Super Bowl LVIII? Adam Schein provides nine last-minute predictions for the 2023 NFL season.

Report: Former Syracuse, Buccaneers WR Mike Williams on life support following construction accident
Mike Williams spent five seasons in the league, and last played with the Buffalo Bills in 2014.

2023 NFL Offensive Player Rankings, Week 1: Patrick Mahomes No. 1; four teams land two players
David Carr reveals his top 15 offensive player rankings -- a list that includes four teams with two players apiece -- heading into Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.

Niners edge Nick Bosa agrees to terms on record 5-year, $170M extension
Nick Bosa, the reigning Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year has agreed to a five-year, $170 million extension with the 49ers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.