The Denver Broncos are in the midst of their most promising stretch of football in the last decade. The Broncos have compiled their most important back-to-back wins since they won the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl in 2015, and are heading into a softer section of their schedule. However, the Broncos are expecting a big name to return to their secondary before their next game: safety Kareem Jackson.
Jackson has finished his two-game suspension for an excessive amount of unnecessary roughness and targeting calls, but a three-game stretch in which the Broncos went 3-0, if you include the brunt of the Packers game as a missed game. In his absence, safety PJ Locke has stepped up and played some solid football, including an incredible game-ending interception of Jordan Love against the Packers in week seven. Locke, to his credit, has not been flagged for any egregious penalties, unlike Jackson.
Jackson is eligible to play in week eleven against the Vikings. When Jackson departed after being ejected against the Packers, the Broncos were merely 1-5. Since, the Broncos defeated the Packers, Chiefs, and Bills. Jackson, upon his return, figures to slot back into his starting gig. However, he was given a strong warning from head coach Sean Payton. Jackson, in his first press availability since returning to the team, said that he spoke with Payton early on Tuesday morning. Jackson stated,"I can’t say exactly the words, but he’s like, ‘We’re rolling; don’t you come in and mess it up.’”
To his credit, Jackson has amassed a 72.2 PFF grade in his games played so far this season, a mark which bests PJ Locke's mark of 50.8. However, Jackson's reckless penalties have definitely cost the Broncos key yards and momentum in two different games that were settled by three total points. Sean Payton and Vance Joseph's deployment of the two safeties will be arguably the biggest story for the Broncos, at least roster-wise, in this Sunday night's game.
As the Broncos are rolling into their home game against the red-hot Vikings, it is clear that Sean Payton sees something bigger from this team: a potential playoff run. The Broncos are winners of four of their last six, and have their schedule lightening up before the season ends. If the Broncos can pull off a few key victories, the team can propel itself into a much more important conversation within the AFC.
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