Aug 29, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely (3) shake hands following the preseason game at Sports Authority Field. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 32-24. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Bye weeks are a time for teams to recollect and get ready for their next opponent one week earlier. The next team the Broncos must face is the Cardinals, one of the teams that has surprised the league in the first month of the season.
The Arizona Cardinals come to Invesco Field on the first Sunday afternoon in October as one of the only two teams that remain undefeated. It will be the second straight game that the Broncos face an NFC West opponent, which is described as the toughest division in the league. There are many surprises from this Cardinals squad, but my biggest surprise has been the play of backup quarterback Drew Stanton. The numbers have not been pretty for him in Carson Palmer’s absence, but he has played the part in order to help the team win.
The one thing the Broncos need to watch out for against the Cardinals is their defense. Against the San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, and San Francisco 49ers the Cardinals have allowed on average 15 points per game. Against the two playoff teams last year, they allowed 15.5 points per game. Allowing that many points against quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Phillip Rivers is quite impressive. It will be interesting to see how Peyton Manning responds to a pretty stout scoring defense.
The Cardinals run defense is solid as well, only allowing 71 yards on average. On paper, it appears Montee Ball will have a tough time getting anything going. And on paper, it seems like the team is going to rely heavily on Manning. But I think they should still try to run the ball. The Chargers have had injuries to running backs and the Giants and 49ers are not exactly a run first offense this season. One of the players that should be on watch is Montee Ball.
The most challenging part for the Broncos is who will play quarterback for the Cardinals. Stanton has been a solid play in Palmer’s absence, but what if Palmer is healthy? The Broncos are preparing for whomever is under center for the Cardinals, which means extra practice due to the different style of quarterback play that they bring.
The Broncos will be the Cardinals first real test this season because they will be playing an elite team on the road. I give them credit for beating the Chargers and 49ers, but they were home for both of those contests. The Cardinals will be looked at even more if they can beat an elite team on the road. Will that happen? Broncos Country is hoping that it doesn’t. This is perhaps the most underrated game of the week. We are all in for a show Broncos Country.