DENVER (AP)Russell Wilson and Jordan Love are the latest examples of how quickly quarterbacks can go from sizzle to fizzle in the NFL.
Wilson started out the season looking nothing like the QB who struggled so mightily last year for the Broncos, and from the get-go Love looked every bit like a worthy successor to Aaron Rodgers with the Packers.
Wilson’s numbers through four mostly efficient games rivaled Patrick Mahomes’ stats as he threw for over 1,000 yards with nine TDs and two interceptions under new Denver coach Sean Payton’s tutelage. But he has three turnovers and eight sacks over the last two weeks, including another loss at Kansas City in which he threw for a meager 95 yards and was intercepted twice.
“We’ve done some really good things offensively, but didn’t play our best game the last game,” Wilson said. “I didn’t play my best game, but I’ve been feeling really confident all season long.”
Love played so well in the Green Bay’s 18-point rout at Chicago in its opener that he got a text congratulating him for “keeping the ownership in place.” That message was from Rodgers, who famously hollered, “I still own you!” after scoring a game-clinching TD at Soldier Field in 2021, one of his two dozen wins over the Bears.
After throwing for six touchdown passes without an interception in Green Bay’s first two games, Love has thrown six interceptions and two TD passes over his last three and is coming off a three-interception dud against the Raiders before the Packers’ bye week.
“Just having that sick taste in my mouth, it’s going to keep pushing me forward,” Love said.
The Broncos (1-5) and Packers (2-3) play Sunday at Empower Field, where the loser could see a swelling of the “ Collapse for Caleb ” sentiment as their fans further espouse the notion of stinking so badly that Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams will come to their rescue in 2024.
That would take a season-long slide and some leapfrogging of other struggling teams, but both of these storied franchises are squarely in the mix for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner as the weather begins to turn.
There are still plenty of games left to bounce back and salvage this season, but the Halloween trade deadline is approaching and teams are taking a hard look at being sellers if they deem the cellar a real possibility.
The Broncos have lost all three of their home games to underdogs, something that won’t be an issue Sunday because the Packers were installed as 1 1/2-point road favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
The Packers are hopeful their early bye will allow one of their top playmakers to return to form. Running back Aaron Jones scored twice on opening weekend but has missed three of the last four games with a pulled hamstring.
“I prefer a later bye, but I needed it now, so thank God it came when it did,” Jones said. “Everything happens for a reason. It worked out.”
Broncos tight end Greg Dulcich focused on his hydration, stretching routine and hip mobility after pulled hamstrings caused him to miss seven games as a rookie last year. But it’s been even worse this season as he’s pulled up lame in both games he’s played and will miss his fifth game Sunday because of hamstring injuries.
Without Dulcich stretching the field and forcing defenses into difficult decisions, the Broncos rank next-to-last in the league with 19.7 receiving yards per game out of their tight ends.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated just like we are frustrated for him,” Payton said.
The Packers have been outscored 54-6 in the first half of their last three games. Not only are they dawdling, they’ve been mostly idle of late. Due to scheduling quirks, the Packers return to action Sunday having played just one game in a 23-day stretch.
The Packers hosted the Lions in a Thursday night game on Sept. 28, then didn’t play again until a Monday night matchup at Las Vegas on Oct. 9 ahead of their bye week.
The screenshots quickly reached Sean Payton following Denver’s loss at Kansas City, when the two-minute section of his playsheet was on display for everyone to read quite clearly. But he downplayed the significance of everyone knowing, for instance, that his code word for quarterback sneak is “Converse.”
“I don’t worry about it,” Payton said, explaining that the game unspools too fast for such keywords to matter to a defense.
When NFL reporter Dov Kleiman tweeted that Payton will have to change the tags for the next game, NFL commentator and former O-lineman Mark Schlereth hit the snark button with this reply: “Not because people see them but because they don’t work!”
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report.
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