Takeaways as the Broncos season ends in disappointing fashion

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After a long and tumultuous 18 weeks, the Denver Broncos season has come to an end with a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, wilting 27-14 to their division rivals and falling to third in the AFC West. 

The Broncos started the season 1-5 and inevitably dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. Despite their five-game winning streak in the middle of the season, they were always on the outside looking in and fell away again at the end of the year going 2-4 to close out the season, missing the playoffs again.

The losing streak to the Raiders continues 

Perhaps, the most disappointing part of Sunday’s loss is the continuation of the Broncos’ losing streak against their bitter AFC West rivals. 

Sean Payton’s team could have bucked two huge losing trends this season had they won on Sunday, having already put an end to their 16-game losing streak against the Kansas City Chiefs earlier in the season. 

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It wasn’t to be however and they got thoroughly outplayed by the Raiders who looked better and more hungry in every facet of the game, from coaching to quarterback play and everything in between. 

To put the icing on the cake, the loss meant that the Broncos have now had a losing record for seven straight seasons ending Payton’s first campaign 8-9. 

The rebuild starts now 

Now the season is over, the conversations will turn to offseason movement in free agency and the NFL Draft which will take place in late April. 

As discussed last week, the Broncos have several big pending free agents who they likely won’t be able to retain if they also take the route of cutting Russell Wilson and eating his hefty dead cap hit. 

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As a result, Denver will likely be constructing a roster of cheap veteran and rookie players next year, unless they can convince some of their stars that remain on the roster to reconstruct their contracts and give the Broncos some breathing room on their cap.

An 8-9 record partnered with a Superbowl-winning head coach, is a great base to rebuild on and defensively Vance Joseph found a formula that clicked in the middle part of the season.

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of holes on the roster that need filling on both sides of the ball, coaching can provide the players with a strong floor, the Los Angeles Rams showed that this season, and perhaps the Broncos will still be able to take positive steps next season.

January blues

It was sealed last week, but the Broncos will be without playoff football in January for the seventh year in a row, the second-longest post-season drought in the NFL currently.

Payton’s team gave it a good shot and for the first time since the 2016, Super Bowl 50 team, it felt like Broncos Country had a team that they could root for and a team that could bring some cheer back to Mile High. 

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Payton brought a sense of optimism back to the Broncos and he has begun to change the culture of this team, it’s clear for all to see when they look at the tape, and the midseason turnaround personified it. 

So while the short-term future of the franchise seems bleak, there are reasons to be optimistic and in a couple of seasons, there is reason to hold out hope that Payton can bring the Broncos back into the AFC playoffs in the future.

Thank you! 

Finally, a thank you from me to anyone reading this week’s takeaways or to anyone who read one of my takeaway pieces this season.

If you’re a general NFL fan then I hope you enjoy the storyline-littered NFL playoffs, and if you are a member of Broncos Country then have hope and get mock drafting!

I hope to see you back again reading takeaways throughout the offseason and into 2024.