It's safe to say that Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is back. The nine-time Pro Bowler may never return to his 'vintage' form of yesteryear, but it's quite clear that Sean Payton's influence has brought Wilson back from the brink.

'Danger-Russ' may no longer be the norm, but he's definitely more than the 'game manager' quarterback his still-vocal critics decry. Ask Courtland Sutton about that

It turns out that when facing elite defenses in three consecutive weeks, a quarterback's statistical output will be mitigated. And yet, Wilson has still emerged victorious. 

The 7-3 Cleveland Browns are the NFL's top defense currently, so it'll be four straight weeks of facing elite competition for Wilson. However, if he plays his cards right, he has the chance to join some Broncos royalty on the all-time lists. 

With 19 touchdown passes this season, Wilson needs one passing score vs. the Browns to become the seventh Broncos quarterback to record 20 passing TDs in the first 10 games of a season. If Wilson once again posts a passer rating north of 100, he'll become the first Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning (2014) to record a QB rating of 100-plus in four straight games. 

Nov 19, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Empower Field at Mile High. 

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson has been on a roll this year, though his yardage stats haven't been there. There are explanations as to why he's not stacking passing yards as he has in years past, and it mostly boils down to Payton's offensive commitment to the run game and the quality of defenses the Broncos have faced this season, especially of late. 

In Week 2 of this season, Wilson became the first quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 40,000 career passing yards and 5,000 career rushing yards. There have been some great dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL annals, like Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick, but none have had the sustained success that Wilson has as a pro. 

Late last season, Wilson passed Broncos legend John Elway (300) on the NFL all-time passing touchdowns list and currently sits with 327 for his career, which ranks No. 13 all-time. Through 10 games this season, Wilson's 19 touchdown passes rank No. 3 (tied) in the NFL. 

No quarterback has more fourth-quarter comebacks than Wilson this season, either. And that dates back more than a decade. Among active quarterbacks, only Matthew Stafford (37) has more come-from-behind victories than Wilson's 35, but no signal-caller has more since Wilson entered the league in 2012. Russ happens to rank No. 9 among NFL QBs all-time in fourth-quarter comebacks, tied, ironically, with Elway. 

For the season, Wilson is nursing what would be a career-high 69.0 completion percentage with 2,065 yards and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19-to-4. His 104.3 QB rating this season also ranks him No. 3 in the NFL. Wilson entered the NFL as a Seattle Seahawks' third-round draft choice in 2012, and since then, he has totaled the most regular-season games with a passer rating of 100.0 or higher (95) among all NFL signal-callers.

Do you still doubt Payton's sincerity when he said that Wilson was one of the big reasons he wanted the Broncos head-coaching job? Quarterback, ownership, and front office — in no particular order — were Payton's non-negotiable must-haves for his next NFL head-coaching gig, and the Broncos checked all three boxes. 

Yes, Wilson was included in Payton's calculus. 

If the recent past is the best predictor of the immediate future, Wilson is on pace to pass for 3,511 yards and 32 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Such production, especially if it were to come in conjunction with a Broncos playoff berth, could be enough to garner a 10th Pro Bowl selection in his 12th season. 

Wilson might not have the same quick-twitch and footspeed of his prime self — Father Time remains undefeated, after all — but he's still got deadly deep-ball accuracy and a stubborn refusal to throw in the towel when the chips are down. Approaching his 35th birthday later this month (November 29), the veteran QB is proving those doubters who called him 'washed' completely wrong. 

What Wilson needed was a competent coach to guide him, and the returns on Payton thus far scream in more ways than one that the Walton/Penner ownership group in Denver made the right hire. 

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