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Bronco notes: To talk, or not to talk about the playoffs

Flexing backward in time. Locke is improving.
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles against the Minnesota Vikings during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo — A four-game winning streak— with all its heart-stopping, final-minute rescues and uncanny baker’s dozen takeaways— has put the Denver Broncos in position.

“Time to be lights out,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said Wednesday.

For all their sweat and relentless effort, the Broncos’ win streak has only put them back to .500. They are 5-5 with the full body of work of the 2023 season to be measured in these final seven games, starting Sunday afternoon, against the surprisingly 7-3 Cleveland Browns at Empower Field at Mile High.  

“In order to get to talking about the playoff picture and all that you’ve got to find a way to beat a really good Browns’ team at home,’’ said safety Justin Simmons.

“The best thing you can think about is all the opportunities,’’ Wilson said. “I always think about this is a great opportunity to win a game here.’’

Head coach Sean Payton had various thoughts about his team’s sudden entry into the playoff race, with much of his mind trying not to go there.

“No, I get it,’’ Payton said. “ You try to use an analogy of where we’re past the halfway mark, but we haven’t hit turn three yet. I mean this— it’s hard in this league. Periodically, something will come up, and my wife will say, ‘That’s when we’re playing the Chargers,’ and I’m like, ‘I have no idea when that is.’ You do get tunnel vision to the next challenge in front of you, and hopefully we all do, because I think it’s better relative to your preparation and focus.’’

He strayed back to an unusual challenge he personally confronts when it comes to the playoff-chases game of scoreboard watching.

“The thing that’s different for me is being in the NFC this whole time, you always kind of knew who you wanted to lose and win," Payton said. "I’m still trying to get adjusted to figuring out, ‘That’s an AFC team, we don’t want them to have success.’’’

Then Payton’s mind wondered back to the hard-fought win against the Vikings.

“The focus is inward on what we have to do,’’ Payton said as part of his answer to the same question about the playoffs. “When I drove home from the game the other night, although we won, there’s a number of things that you’re just mad at yourself because you’re wondering, ‘Did I cover it well enough? Were they prepared? Why did this happen?’ You can’t wait to get back to work.’’

And then, as he usually does, Payton circled back to the question about the Broncos’ playoff possibilities.

“It’s good that the questions are coming,’’ he said. “It’s better than the alternative. There are just so many things that we have to get better at. There’s still that race to improve and that race to get better. The 20 teams that do that better will be rewarded.”

Why flex back to 11 a.m.?

It’s not unusual for a game to be flexed into a time slot with a bigger audience. What is unusual is getting flexed back to the earliest time slot.

The big game for CBS next week is when the Eagles take on the 49ers at 2:25 p.m. MST. The network’s next-best game— Broncos against Texans— was also supposed to kick off in Houston in the 2 p.m. time slot.

Almost all the other games can be classified as “might as well rake the leaves instead” types.

So, rather than have the 5-5 Broncos and 6-4 Texans get swallowed up by the 7-3 49ers and 9-1 Eagles, the game in Houston was moved back three hours to 11 a.m. MST.  

Locke update

Backup safety P.J. Locke— who, if healthy, would be the first one in line to replace the suspended Kareem Jackson— was held out of practice Wednesday because of the left ankle injury that caused him to miss the Sunday night game against the Vikings. Locke did seem to move around well on the side rehab field, though, which means, if he can practice Thursday and/or Friday, there's a chance he could go Sunday against the Browns.


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