As far as Justin Simmons is concerned it doesn't matter that the Denver Broncos lost 10 games in 2021 to finish in last place in the AFC West.

Or that the team hasn't made the playoffs since the 2015 season.

The way Simmons sees it, the Broncos are equipped to win this year's Super Bowl.

Simmons was drafted by Denver in 2016 just months after the team's last playoff appearance – a win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

The Broncos have four double-digit loss seasons in the six years since winning it all, but with the addition of Russell Wilson at quarterback and a new coaching staff, Simmons believes this season will end differently.

"In terms of the playoffs, I'm really excited," Simmons said Tuesday on Good Morning Football. "Like you said, I just missed the Super Bowl with Denver; got drafted the year after, and then since then, the best record that I've been a part of was 9-7, just missing that playoff berth. 

"Guys are hungry, and obviously, Russ is hungry. We got a hungry group, we've got a talented group, and that's what I'm really looking forward to. I feel like if you have that - as long as we don't beat ourselves - I like our chances to host playoff games and eventually hoist the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year."

A Pro Bowl selection in 2020, the 28-year-old Simmons was tied for fourth in the NFL with five interceptions last season to help lead a defense that ranked third in the league in opponent scoring at 18.9 points per game.

With Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock lining up at quarterback, however, Denver's offense struggled to keep up in the high-powered AFC West, averaging 19.7 points per game to rank tied with Washington for 23rd.

Expectations on offense are much higher this year with Wilson taking over at signal-caller in perhaps the NFL's most talented quarterback division with the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herber and Las Vegas Raiders' Derek Carr.

"I think the confidence level is at an all-time high," Simmons said. "Playing in the best division in football, being in the AFC West, is going to be challenging but it's going to be fun, right? 

"I think Russ kind of hit it on the head in his opening presser when he was officially announced as a Denver Bronco, and saying, 'I'm not scared of the competition and I want to go up against the best, and there's no better division to go up against in the AFC West.' 

"Seeing Herbert, Carr and Mahomes twice a year and obviously how talented that offense is, but just as a team. The defensive additions that all those teams have gotten and things like that. I'm just really looking forward to the competitive nature that those games are going to hold. I'm excited for, you know, obviously us, but the fans to watch those games as well. 

"It's going to be really cool. It's going to be a lot of fireworks for those games."

The Baltimore Ravens got one of their most important defenders back for Monday’s training camp practice, as cornerback Marcus Peters took the field for the first time since tearing his ACL last September.

Peters, who missed the entire 2021 campaign after suffering the injury four days before the season opener, was activated from the physically unable to perform list and took part in individual drills as he gradually makes his way towards being cleared for full practices.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection’s return bodes well for his chances of being ready for Baltimore’s 2022 opener at the New York Jets on September 11.

"[The medical staff] has a plan for that," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday about Peters’ timetable. "Marcus is in a good place. Came back from PUP, did individual today. That was good."

One of the game’s premier ball hawks, Peters has recorded a league-high 31 interceptions since entering the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015. That total is the second highest of any player through his first six seasons among players whose careers began in 2000 or later, behind only former Ravens great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed’s 34 (2002-07).

With Peters unavailable, Baltimore’s defense generated only nine interceptions last season (tied for 26th in the NFL) and allowed a league-high 4,742 net passing yards, a prime reason why the 8-9 Ravens finished with their first losing season since 2015.

A healthy Peters gives Baltimore one of the top cornerback duos in the NFL alongside Marlon Humphrey, a two-time Pro Bowler and a first team All-Pro in 2019.

"It was good to see that he’s improving and making the strides to be ready to go out there and help us compete," defensive lineman Calais Campbell told the Ravens’ official site. "This team is very, very talented, and we just got a whole lot better with him on the field."

The New York Jets have bolstered their offensive line, officially agreeing to terms with veteran left tackle Duane Brown on Monday.

The two sides reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth up to $22million last week after right tackle Mekhi Becton sustained a season-ending injury at practice.

Brown earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection last season with the Seattle Seahawks and is expected to start at left tackle with his former Seattle team-mate George Fant moving to the right side.

Fant was projected to start at left tackle this season with Becton on the right side but after the latter's injury, Fant will move to the right side keeping Brown in his familiar spot on the left.

Brown, who turns 37 later this month, has played in every game in three of the past four seasons and missed just four over that span. His 203 career starts – all at left tackle – are the most of any active offensive lineman.

A first-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2008, Brown earned first-team All-Pro honours with the Texans in 2012. He spent nine-plus seasons in Houston before being traded to Seattle during the 2017 campaign following a contract dispute.

The Jets begin the season on September 11 against the Baltimore Ravens and are hopeful of having Zach Wilson at quarterback for the opener.

Wilson suffered a bone bruise and torn meniscus in Friday's preseason opener and is undergoing surgery on Tuesday.

He is expected to be sidelined two to four weeks, but the team will have a better idea of his recovery time after the procedure.

Trey Lance has the belief of Kyle Shanahan, but the San Francisco 49ers' head coach does not believe his starting quarterback will "make or break" their 2022 season.

Lance will be the Niners' starter in 2022, replacing Jimmy Garoppolo, who is likely to be released when rosters are trimmed to 53 players if San Francisco cannot find a trade partner.

San Francisco reached Super Bowl LIV with Garoppolo as the starter in the 2019 campaign and narrowly lost last season's NFC Championship Game with the former New England Patriot under center.

However, the Niners traded three first-round picks to move up to the third overall pick in the 2021 draft and select Lance out of North Dakota State, believing him to have the physical gifts and the mental attributes to take their offense to the next level.

They will now see their assessment of Lance put to the test across a full season. Lance started two games in relief of an injured Garoppolo last year and, prior to that, had only one full season of college football under his belt. That came in 2019 when he threw for 28 touchdowns and ran for a further 14 without throwing a single interception as Lance led North Dakota State to an FCS National Championship.

That lack of seasoning makes Lance one of the biggest unknowns of the 2022 season, but head coach Shanahan does not think his performance will be the defining factor for an extremely well-rounded team harbouring Super Bowl aspirations.

"Is Trey ready to take it on his shoulders?" Shanahan told Peter King's Football Morning in America. "He shouldn't be. He hasn't gone through it enough.

"I believe in him as a man, as a person. I believe in his talent. I don't think he is going to make or break our season, just like in 2019 and last year, I didn't think Jimmy was going to make or break our season."

Shanahan, though, suggested attempting to deliver for a team under pressure to win a sixth Super Bowl title after going agonisingly close in two of the last three seasons could negatively impact Lance.

"But what sucks is when you're learning how to play and you're not there yet, how do you not get worse sometimes when that pressure's on you and you need to go through the growing pains?" Shanahan added.

Lance went 1-1 as a starter last year, throwing for 603 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in his brief time on the field. He also ran for 168 yards and a touchdown.

According to Stats Perform data, Lance was the second-most aggressive quarterback in the NFL in terms of pushing the ball downfield. Among quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts, only Drew Lock (10.20) averaged more air yards than Lance (10.10). 

Lance was still accurate despite regularly attempting low-percentage throws. No player to average at least 9.0 air yards had a better well-thrown rate than Lance, who delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 77.1 per cent of his attempts.

In his first preseason game of 2022, Lance played two offensive series, completing four of his five passes for 92 yards including a 76-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Danny Gray in a 28-21 win over the Green Bay Packers.

Lance will take part in joint practices between the 49ers and Minnesota Vikings this week but will not play in Saturday's second preseason game.

New Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels gushed over the atmosphere during his first game at Allegiant Stadium, where his side defeated the Minnesota Vikings 26-20 on Sunday.

With the established stars all sitting out, Raiders backup quarterbacks Nick Mullens and Jarrett Stidham both performed well, with Mullens going seven-for-nine for 94 yards and a touchdown, while Stidham completed 10-of-15 passes for 68 yards, also adding 16 yards and a rushing touchdown with his legs.

In a game that featured veteran receivers Demarcus Robinson, Keelan Cole and Mack Hollins, it was rookie D.J. Turner who stood out for the Raiders, with 58 yards and a touchdown while catching three of his four targets.

Over 61,000 packed into Allegiant Stadium for their first taste of competitive football this season, and McDaniels said he had never seen anything like it for what is essentially a meaningless game.

"This was a special day," he said. "I've been around a lot of preseason games over 22 years, and I don't remember one feeling like this.

"The reception from our fans – getting to know Raider nation the way that you see them now – it's just different.

"I've competed against them a handful of times in my time in the NFL, but to now be on the same side, you understand why it is what it is.

"I'm lucky and blessed to be the head coach here. That is the best atmosphere in a preseason game that I've ever been a part of, and that's easy to say that, clearly.

"I can't wait to play another time in here, and then get to the regular season and have the opportunity to do it for real in regular games, but what a great, passionate fanbase we have. To have the girls here, and my son on the sideline, it's a special day."

Four weeks to the day before the Cincinnati Bengals open their 2022 season, Joe Burrow was back on the practice field for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove his appendix 2 and a half weeks ago.

It's uncertain how much work Burrow did during Sunday morning's walkthrough, though the 25-year-old quarterback returned from the practice field in his jersey while carrying his helmet.

Prior to the Bengals' Sunday afternoon practice, the team tweeted out a short video of Burrow in shoulder pads and a practice jersey to tease fans of his return.

A return to the practice field appeared imminent after he took part in some pre-game sprints ahead of the Bengals' preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night.

Sidelined since his appendectomy on July 26, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor had just said last week Burrow was feeling better but didn’t want to put a timetable on when he would return.

The Bengals open the season on September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team has always indicated Burrow would be healthy enough to start the opener.

After a knee injury cut short his 2020 rookie season, Burrow is coming off a sensational 2021, in which he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season, while ranking second in passer rating (108.3), sixth in passing yards (4,611) and eighth in touchdown passes (34).

He's baaaaack pic.twitter.com/vAGuTxEU4z

— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 14, 2022

The clock is ticking on the amount of time Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens have to work out a contract extension for the former league MVP.

The sides have four weeks to come to an agreement after the star quarterback set Week 1 as a deadline to get an extension in place.

Jackson, who is representing himself without an agent, is entering the final year of his rookie contract and set to make just over $23million guaranteed on his fifth-year option in 2022.

"Yeah, we coming up to it. It's coming up. Season's coming up," Jackson said on Saturday. "We're going to be good for the season."

When asked if that meant Week 1 is the deadline, Jackson replied: "Yeah, for sure."

The Ravens open the season September 11 at the New York Jets.

If a deal cannot be reached by the season opener, Jackson would become a free agent in March, though it is still possible the Ravens and 2019 league MVP can confirm a deal after the completion of this season.

Jackson added he had "no updates" on current contract negotiations.

The 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft, Jackson is coming off an injury-marred 2021 season, averaging 240.2 passing yards and 63.9 yards rushing in 12 games.

He finished with 16 passing touchdowns, a career-high 13 interceptions and an 87.0 QB rating – eighth lowest among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 350 passing attempts last season.

The Ravens lost four of the five games Jackson missed last season and finished 8-9 to miss the playoffs for the first time in his career.

All three Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks threw at least one touchdown pass in Saturday’s preseason opener, but rookie Kenny Pickett had the most impressive performance. 

Pickett threw for a pair of touchdowns, including a 24-yarder to Tyler Vaughns with three seconds remaining to lift the Steelers to a 32-25 victory over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. 

Pickett, the 20th overall selection in this year’s draft out of Pittsburgh, is competing with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to replace retired two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback. He certainly did nothing to hurt his chances on Saturday. 

He played the entire second half and led a seven-play, 75-yard drive on his opening possession, completing all five of his passes, culminating in a three-yard TD pass to Jaylen Warren.  

His winning throw in the waning seconds capped a five-play, 43-yard drive. Pickett finished 13-of-15 for 95 yards with two scores, and completed 10 consecutive passes at one point.  

Trubisky, who spent last season as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo, led the Steelers to a TD on the opening possession with a 90-yard drive. He was four-of-seven for 63 yards, connecting with Gunner Olszewski on a 13-yard scoring strike. 

Rudolph, Roethlisberger’s backup the past four seasons, led touchdown and field goal drives on the first two of his three possessions. His 26-yard TD pass to exciting rookie George Pickens gave the Steelers a 14-0 lead. Rudolph was nine-of-15 for 93 yards.  

The New York Jets and their fans can breathe a sigh of relief after an MRI on Zach Wilson's right knee showed a healthy ACL, avoiding the worst-case scenario.

The scans showed that the second-year quarterback is dealing with a bone bruise and torn meniscus, according to multiple media reports. Wilson will undergo arthroscopic surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the preseason.

His status for the Jets' season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on September 11 is in question, but there is some optimism that he could suit up.

Wilson suffered the injury Friday night while scrambling in the Jets' preseason opener against the Eagles.

Wilson made an awkward cut during the 7-yard rush and fell to the turf. Given the non-contact nature of the injury, Jets fans and pundits feared he had torn his ACL, which would have ended his season.

The second overall pick in the 2021 draft, Wilson went 3-10 as a starter in his rookie campaign, throwing for nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Baker Mayfield will be the Carolina Panthers' first quarterback to take the field when they open their preseason schedule against the Washington Commanders, the team confirmed.

Mayfield and Sam Darnold continue to battle for the starting job in Carolina.

The pair are each expected to play one series on Saturday before turning over the bulk of the game to P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral. 

Mayfield getting the first chance on Saturday could be an indication that he has the inside track to the starting job, but the competition remains open. 

Head coach Matt Rhule has called the quarterback competition an "ongoing process", and it would be no surprise if the Panthers used the entire preseason to evaluate before naming a starter. 

"When we know, we know," Rhule said. "If we knew for sure, we would say it and just move on with it. When we, we know.

"Every day brings new evidence. Every day brings new insights. 

"But at the same time, they're both competitors. If one guy has a strong day, the next guy fights back the next day.

"I think it's been healthy for our team. It's been healthy for the staff. I think it's been done the right way. I'm pleased with where it's at."

The Panthers open the regular season on September 11 against the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield's former team. 

The two signal-callers will be forever linked as the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2018 draft, with Mayfield going first overall and Darnold being chosen third. 

Darnold spent three seasons with the New York Jets before being traded to the Panthers for draft picks last April. He won his first three starts with Carolina last season before finishing 4-7 with nine touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. 

Mayfield started 59 career games for the Browns, and his efficient play in 2020 helped lead Cleveland to their first playoff victory since the 1994 season. 

Mayfield's injury-marred 2021 campaign was a letdown, however, and the Browns chose to pursue Deshaun Watson in the trade market. 

Deshaun Watson "understands there's work to do" following his Cleveland Browns preseason debut, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Watson has not played a competitive game since January 2021 and is set to see that wait extended at least into October.

The Browns quarterback is facing a six-game suspension following a disciplinary hearing, although the NFL has appealed for a longer ban after sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

Watson, who faced 24 civil lawsuits, was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but he apologised "to all of the women that I have impacted" ahead of Friday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When the game got underway, Watson was clearly rusty, with his first pass in a Browns uniform an awful overthrow.

Although the Browns won 24-13 – having trailed 13-0 – Stefanski acknowledged Watson's debut might not have gone exactly as he planned, but the coach was asked if the uncertainty around his suspension had contributed to the shaky performance and replied: "I don't think so, I don't."

Stefanski said: "I think he probably wants some throws back.

"Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, it was important for him to get out there, with his team-mates, in this scheme, hearing a different voice in the helmet, those kind of things.

"I'm sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early, but I think he understands there's work to do."

While Watson's status has been unclear for some time, Stefanski explained the team had been working towards giving him his bow in preseason.

"It's been something we've been talking about throughout the last months and weeks, trying to figure out what the best path forward was not just for our quarterbacks but for our entire team," he said.

"We just thought getting him some time out there in a game setting made sense in this preseason."

The New York Jets have had a nightmare start to their preseason with second-year quarterback Zach Wilson limping out of Friday's 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Wilson suffered a right knee injury in the first quarter, buckling without contact as he scrambled out of the pocket trying to outrun a tackler.

The 23-year-old Jets QB fell, got up limping, before dropping to the turf again and exiting for the locker room.

Wilson had thrown an interception on the Jets' fifth play, finishing the game completing three of five passes for 23 yards.

The injury concern is to the same knee that he sustained a PCL sprain last season, causing him to miss four games.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh revealed Wilson would have an MRI on Saturday to determine the extent of the injury but said his ACL was "supposed to be intact".

The Jets have high hopes for their 2021 NFL Draft second pick, building their roster around him this offseason, having bolstered their offensive ranks with tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin and drafting wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall.

Wilson had a difficult rookie season with a 3-10 record, completing 213 of 383 attempts for nine touchdowns and 2,334 yards with 11 interceptions for a 55.6 completion rate.

There were other injury worries from Friday's preseason games with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London hurting his right knee in their 27-23 win over the Detroit Lions.

San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell watched on in their clash with the Green Bay Packers after suffering a hamstring injury during their camp.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen, covering for Joe Burrow who is recovering from an appendectomy, was ruled out due to a concussion in their 36-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

 

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has apologized for the first time to the women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Watson's immediate playing future in the NFL is in limbo after the NFL appealed a six-game ban handed by independent arbiter Sue L. Robinson last week for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

The league was seeking a minimum one-year suspension as well as a fine of at least $5million. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.

In the meantime, the Browns announced on Wednesday that Watson would play in Friday's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ahead of Friday's game, Watson appeared in an in-house video where he spoke about the situation and apologized for his actions for the first time, having previously said he had "no regrets".

"I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation," Watson said.

"The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position, I would definitely like to have back.

"But I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward."

Watson had been facing 24 civil lawsuits filed by female message therapists alleging sexual misconduct between 2020 and 2021 during his time with the Texans.

The three-time Pro Bowler was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He settled 20 of the lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported at the start of August ahead of the verdict of his NFL hearing.

Friday's appearance marked Watson's in an NFL game of any kind since the 2020 season finale, dating back to January 3 2021.

The Houston Texans had held him out of all of their 2021 games while a criminal investigation into the allegations was conducted. He was traded to the Browns in March this year.

"Each and every snap, I want to make sure I cherish that because I'm not sure when the next time I'll be able to get out there with those guys," he said.

Watson added that he would work on personal growth during his probable time out of the game.

"I know I have a lot of work to put in, especially on the field to be able to make sure I'm ready to play whenever that time comes whenever I can step back on the field," he said.

"But also, the biggest thing is I want to continue counseling and I want to make sure that I'm growing as a person, as an individual for my decision-making on and off the field.

"I want to make sure that I'm just evolving in the community as much as possible, and that is for the Cleveland community, that is the NFL community and beyond."

Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell announced on Friday that starting quarterback Kirk Cousins has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not travel with the team for Sunday's preseason opener at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Cousins will be required to isolate for at least five days before being allowed to rejoin the team at training camp, provided he tests negative.

The 2021 Pro Bowl selection missed Thursday's practice and was sent home from camp with what the Vikings initially termed an illness.

O'Connell did not reveal who will start under center Sunday, but did say both veteran Sean Mannion and second-year pro Kellen Mond will see extensive action.

"No matter who starts, they'll both play a ton," O'Connell remarked.

Cousins was in the NFL's protocols for unvaccinated players last season and missed the Vikings' Week 17 game at Green Bay on January 2 following a positive diagnosis. Mannion started in his place and threw for 189 yards and a touchdown in a 37-10 Minnesota loss to the Packers.

The NFL has lifted coronavirus protocols for this season, though all players must adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines if they test positive.

The Baltimore Ravens extended the NFL record for longest preseason winning streak with their 21st consecutive victory Thursday night, 23-10 over the visiting Tennessee Titans. 

No team has ever been better in the preseason than the Ravens. What exactly that means in the grand scheme of things is open to debate.  

Backup Tyler Huntley was 16-for-18 with a touchdown pass and Justin Tucker kicked three field goals for Baltimore, which last season eclipsed the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers, who won 19 straight preseason games from 1959-1962. The Ravens last loss an exhibition game on September 3, 2015.  

Baltimore’s streak is in no danger of being matched anytime soon, with the Buffalo Bills owning the second-longest active preseason winning streak at eight in a row.  

With starter Ryan Tannehill getting the night off for the Titans, rookie quarterback Malik Willis played the entire first half and went 6-of-11 for 107 yards while rushing five times for 38 yards and a touchdown.  

The third-round draft pick out of Liberty scored on seven-yard run early in the second quarter. After running towards the right side on a designed sprint-out concept, Willis felt pressure and spun away from danger, slipping between two defenders before reaching the end zone.  

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