ENGLEWOOD — At 9:41 a.m on March 8, the Broncos' lives changed forever, an event so enormous the ripples continue reaching shore three months later. Denver acquired Russell Wilson, ending their carousel of quarterback chaos following Peyton Manning's retirement.
Wilson's arrival made the Broncos relevant again. Thursday drove this point home as the NFL released the 2022 schedule, featuring the Broncos in multiple prime time games and back on Monday Night Football after a three-decade run ended last season.
Russell Mania will be running wild as Wilson opens his Broncos career by returning to Seattle in a Monday matchup on Sept. 12. Wilson won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks, lost another and made nine Pro Bowls in 10 seasons. He orchestrated his exit this offseason, choosing the Broncos to cement his Hall of Fame legacy.
Wilson could face Drew Lock — a polarizing figure in his three seasons in Denver — adding spice to a heavily-anticipated game that will also feature Nathaniel Hackett's head coaching debut. The Broncos opened as a 4-point favorite in most sportsbooks.
The pressure remains enormous for the franchise to end its six-year playoff drought and snap a skid of five consecutive losing seasons.
The Broncos pull the curtain on their home season on Sept. 18, hosting the Texans. They will be heavily favored against one of the NFL's worst returning teams.
Wilson's gravitational pull on eyeballs was obvious in the early games. The Broncos play in prime time four times in the first six weeks. They host the 49ers on Sept. 25, the Colts on Thursday Oct. 6 and travel to the Chargers for their second Monday night tilt on Oct. 17.
Bent on snapping a 13-game losing streak against, the Broncos face the Chiefs for the first time on Sunday night Dec. 11.
The Broncos square off against the Raiders on Oct. 2 in Las Vegas and Nov. 20. For the Broncos to improve dramatically, they must regain their footing in the AFC West. They are 5-13 in their last 18 games in the division.
The schedule sets up for the Broncos to restore their glory, but it will not be easy. Not only is the division a cagematch, but the Broncos must navigate three road games from Nov. 13 at the Titans to Dec. 4 at the Ravens.
Denver is also returning to London for the first time since 2010, facing the Jaguars. And the Broncos will meet the defending champion Los Angeles Rams on the road on Christmas Day.
It will be a steep climb. But with Wilson under center, optimism is no longer a stranger.
BRONCOS 2022 SCHEDULE
Week 1 Monday, Sept. 12, Broncos at Seahawks, 6:15 p.m., Denver7/ESPN
Week 2 Sunday, Sept. 18, Texans at Broncos, 2:25 p.m., CBS
Week 3 Sunday, Sept. 25, 49ers at Broncos, 6:20 p.m, NBC
Week 4 Sunday, Oct. 2, Broncos at Raiders, 2:25 p.m., CBS
Week 5 Thursday, Oct. 6, Colts at Broncos, 6:15 p.m., Prime Video
Week 6 Sunday, Oct. 17, Broncos at Chargers, 6:15 p.m., ESPN
Week 7 Sunday, Oct. 23, Jets at Broncos, 2:05 p.m., CBS
Week 8 Sunday, Oct. 30, Broncos at Jaguars in London, 7:30 a.m., ESPN+
Week 9 Bye
Week 10 Sunday, Nov. 13, Broncos at Titans, 11 a.m., CBS
Week 11 Sunday, Nov. 20, Raiders at Broncos, 2:05 p.m., FOX
Week 12 Sunday, Nov. 27, Broncos at Panthers, 11 a.m., FOX
Week 13 Sunday, Dec. 4, Broncos at Ravens, 11 a.m., CBS
Week 14 Sunday, Dec. 11 Chiefs at Broncos, 6:20 p.m., NBC
Week 15 Sunday, Dec. 18, Cardinals at Broncos, 2:05 p.m., FOX
Week 16 Sunday, Dec. 25, Broncos at Rams, 2:30 p.m., CBS/Nickelodeon
Week 17 Sunday, Jan. 1, Broncos at Chiefs, 11 a.m., CBS
Week 18 Saturday or Sunday, Jan. 7 or 8, Broncos at Chargers, TBD