The Denver Broncos face off in Week 5 versus the New York Jets at home, and for a few reasons, this is the biggest game the team will have played since Super Bowl 50. Initially, when the 2023 schedule was released, we probably didn't make much of the team facing the New York Jets.
This is now the fourth straight year that the Denver Broncos will play the New York Jets. Denver is 2-1 over the last three seasons, and hopes to make it 3-1 in Week 5. This matchup went from just another game to what could be a game with a ton at stake.
First, the Jets decided to hire Nathaniel Hackett as their new offensive coordinator. Hackett served as the Denver Broncos head coach for not even an entire season, being one of just a handful of head coaches to not make it through their first year on the job. I think the Jets hiring Hackett was a clear indication that they wanted to be the next team to try and acquire Aaron Rodgers so that smoke picked up a bit.
The Packers didn't make the playoffs in 2022, so many did begin to think that the Jets would eventually land Rodgers as their starting QB. And eventually, that trade did go through, even after Rodgers seriously considered retirement this past offseason.
The Denver Broncos were apparently neck-deep in trying to acquire Aaron Rodgers until it became clear that it wasn't happening. George Paton had apparently been gunning for Rodgers, but when news broke that we was returning to Green Bay, he pivoted to Russell Wilson. I think it's clear that Paton hiring Hackett back in 2022 was an attempt to convince Rodgers to request a trade to the Denver Broncos.
Well, the Jets successfully pulled that off. Hiring Hackett did lead to them acquiring Aaron Rodgers. The Jets seemed to acknowledge their mistake with Zach Wilson by acquiring the veteran QB. And well, the biggest bombshell was still not out yet. Sean Payton's USA Today interview was published, and Payton pretty clearly bashed the Jets during that interview.
Payton took shots at the 2022 Denver Broncos and the 2023 New York Jets:
"“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton said. “And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much (expletive) time trying to win the offseason – the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around and all this stuff.- Sean Payton
“We’re not doing any of that. The Jets did that this year. You watch. 'Hard Knocks,' all of it. I can see it coming. Remember when (former Washington owner) Dan Snyder put that Dream Team together? I was at the Giants (in 2000). I was a young coach. I thought, ‘How are we going to compete with them? Deion’s (Sanders) there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen…just put the work in.”"
Payton addressed the interview when it leaked and did express some regret for it, but there's no walking back what he said. In fact, you can argue that Payton was and is 100% right about the New York Jets this year. They are a bit of a disaster in 2023. However, Payton has painted a huge target on his back with this interview, and I guarantee that the Jets are using it as fuel for Week 5.
Denver has played in quite a few exciting-ish games ever since their Super Bowl win. Some of them consist of massive comebacks or nice wins over rival teams. However, not only do the Broncos have to win this game to save their 2023 season, but dropping this game would then create a firestorm of negative attention to the Broncos in the coming week.
You'd hear variations of "Sean Payton ran his mouth and lost to the Jets. The Broncos are 1-4. They're the disaster, not New York," over and over again from the national media. I'd also argue that the media does have a bit of bend towards the NY market, since, after all, that geographical area is a hub for news, sports, etc.
Now, a win would be a much different story. You'd probably hear the media talk about how the Denver Broncos saved their season, for now, and might be able to get another couple of wins before their bye week, which would still keep them in the playoffs push. Dropping the New York Jets to 1-4 would be all but a death sentence for the team, so Payton could then finally exhale that his comments didn't backfire.