Kiszla vs. Newman: Can winning ugly get the Broncos to the playoffs?

Kiz: A 2-1 record. First place, AFC West. Nothing wrong with any of that. Punt for the win. Broncos Country was sick and tired of bad, boring football. Well, unless you’re an aficionado of special teams and you get geeked about 10 punts in a game, this Denver team can be an excuse for a nap on the sofa. The view from first place is beautiful, but can winning ugly get the Broncos into the playoffs?

Newman: While coach Nathaniel Hackett figures out how to let Russ cook more than scrambled eggs, it’s a good thing that the rest of the division might not be as vaunted as predicted. K.C., though still the AFC West favorite by a mile, is vincible, as evidenced by their letdown loss in Indy on Sunday. And the injury-riddled Chargers (1-2, blown out by Jacksonville in Week 3) and Raiders (0-3, a mess) have been shaky. It’s a good thing the Broncos’ relatively soft early schedule gave them cushion to account for growing pains under their rookie head coach.

Kiz: Know what my biggest concern about the Broncos is after three games? Well, this might surprise you as much as it surprises me. My biggest concern is quarterback Russell Wilson. He has thrown two touchdown passes, and his 83.2 quarterback rating ranks 23rd in the league. Were the Seahawks correct, and has Wilson lost a step? Outside of Courtland Sutton, does he truly trust this group of Denver receivers? Is Hackett giving him an optimal menu of plays?

Newman: Let’s be honest: Through three games, Wilson has indeed looked like a QB in decline and a player nowhere near worthy of a five-year, $245 million contract extension. Wilson and Hackett clearly need more time to develop the chemistry necessary to break the 20-point mark, much less become an elite offense. Right now, the best players on the Denver offense are Sutton and Javonte Williams, and then there’s a wide gap between them and everyone else. Russ has to find a way to activate the rest of his weapons.

Kiz: We didn’t build this city on rock n’ roll. This dusty old cowtown was built on a strong Broncos defense. The Orange Crush made this franchise great. And if you said the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in ugly fashion, with a defense that lifted an old, broken-down Peyton Manning to a championship, you wouldn’t be wrong. A top five defense can get Denver to the playoffs. But the Broncos won’t go far in the postseason without significantly more production from Wilson.

Newman: The defense that propelled the Broncos to Super Bowl 50 helped us forget all about Manning’s duck throws and minuscule mobility. And while it’s still early, the 2022 defense has the potential to match that 2015 defense. Pat Surtain II and Justin Simmons (when healthy) can spearhead No Fly Zone 2.0. Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb could be the pass-rushing duo Denver’s been waiting on for years. But you’re right, Kiz: The D may get Denver to the playoffs, but it can’t beat the likes of Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen all by itself. Wilson has to earn his money eventually, or Denver won’t be riding very deep into January.

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