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Thursday Night Football: Russell Wilson and Broncos Try to Get Out of Dip vs. Colts

The Denver Broncos only had 12 first downs in Sunday’s loss against the Las Vegas Raiders, but it looked like progress.

The excitement about the Broncos that spanned the off-season is gone. It’s hard to go anywhere in Colorado without hearing complaints about aspiring head coach Nathaniel Hackett, and even grumbles about quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Broncos are 2-2, but it seems much worse. The offense in particular was a disappointment. The Indianapolis Colts have their own issues and are setting up a survival match for Thursday night’s Amazon Prime Video broadcast.

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The Broncos are getting their third primetime game of the season in five weeks, and many Broncos fans would probably prefer it to be hidden among other games on a Sunday afternoon. The same could be true for the 1-2-1 Colts.

Broncos attack was bad

The Broncos started the season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The offense was terrible in the red zone and Hackett became a household name for a still controversial decision to run time and attempt a 64-yard field goal. The following week was a slog for the offense in a home win over the Houston Texans. The offense was even worse in Week 3, nine times three out but somehow managed a late 11-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Last week was a 32-23 loss to the Raiders, with only 12 first downs, that sent the fanbase into a frenzy. Not many players or coaches don’t want to see Broncos fans fired.

In that game, Denver also lost running to Javonte Williams for the season and passed rusher Randy Gregory for several weeks due to injuries. It’s bad for the Broncos now.

They lose too often on first down. They’ve had games where they can’t play in the red zone. The passing game went up and down. There have been some good signs, but nothing close to a complete game.

“I think it’s just the consistency,” Hackett said this week. “We just don’t want to hurt ourselves. We want to make sure we’re constantly moving the chains. We had a good third-down week and then we’ve had a bad third-down week. We have a good red zone and then a bad red zone . So I think it’s about bringing it all together.”

Wilson has 980 yards, four touchdowns and a pedestrian 91.1 passer rating through four games. That’s not what the Broncos signed up for when they traded multiple draft picks with the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade for a quarterback believed to end the Broncos’ post-Peyton Manning blues at the position.

There is still time for Wilson to be an impact player, and the Broncos are out of the mix at 2-2 for nothing. But all the off-season positive buzz has been replaced by skepticism and concern.

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) isn’t off to a good start this season. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Colts have problems too

The Colts are in bad shape too. They were AFC South favorites coming into the season but four weeks later they are 0-2-1 in division matches. They face the Broncos without two injured stars, turning back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard. Those aren’t just two of the best players in the Colts, they’re two of the best players in the entire NFL.

The Colts have multiple issues, from a mediocre defense, to the offensive line that is surprisingly unable to protect or boost Matt Ryan, to Ryan’s own play. Indianapolis defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, but 1-2-1 rarely looked like a playoff team.

One of these two teams will sink deeper into the doldrums after Thursday evening. It’s too early in the season to panic, but both teams should be concerned about the way they looked in 2022. Some of their problems seem fundamental and may be difficult to solve.

It won’t even be mid-October yet, but the losing squad on Thursday won’t feel too good about the direction things are headed this season.

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