GAME PLAN: The Cardinals are a total mess, on offense ranked 31st rushing, 30th passing and 31st overall; on defense, 30th vs. the rush; 25th vs. the pass and 28th overall. This is a team that's packing their bags and getting ready for next season, particularly with the prospect of third-stringer John Skelton at quarterback. Denver may be inspired temporarily by its coaching situation. The team hasn't been a solid pass rushing team, and generally unaggressive in their blitz philosophy, so expect the Broncos to try to mix schemes and confuse the young quarterback and attempt to force mistakes. Knowshon Moreno has two 100-yard games in the last four weeks and looked good in doing so. The Broncos could try to pound the ball early to set up play-action passes to Brandon Lloyd or especially Jabar Gaffney, who'll have a winnable matchup with cornerback Greg Toler.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Denver's 31st-ranked run defense vs. Arizona's 31st-ranked rush offense: The Cardinals have had similar issues with their ground game as Denver -- poor down-and-distance on third down taking them out of the run; lack of execution and inexplicable periods of abandoning that aspect of the game. But with Skelton expected to start, and Tim Hightower coming off a solid game vs. the Rams, it may behoove the Cardinals to try and remove some of the pressure from the young quarterback by committing to the run. Denver allows 145.3 yards per game rushing and just lost ILB Joe Mays for the season to a knee injury. Only twice all season have the Broncos given up fewer than 100 yards and they have been hit for 147, 123 and 185 the last three weeks.
Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd: Rodgers-Cromartie made the Pro Bowl last season with six interceptions but teams have picked on him some this season. His top-end speed will be needed against Lloyd, who is the biggest playmaker on Denver's offense with his ability to get deep and make acrobatic catches. Lloyd is coming off his worst statistical game with two catches for 31 yards against the Chiefs, though he was repeatedly targeted, and will be looking to bounce back. In fact, Lloyd's receiving totals have dipped for four straight weeks from 90 to 78 to 76, then the 31. He leads the NFL with 16 catches of 25-plus yards and eight catches of 40 yards, regardless.
INJURY IMPACT: S Brian Dawkins (knee) has been declared out this week but as of now, there are no plans to place him on injured reserve. Darcel McBath is back practicing coming off a thigh issue and he could start in his place, though David Bruton did a solid job in a fill-in role last Sunday vs. the Chiefs with six tackles (five solo).
FB Spencer Larsen (hamstring) has been ruled out Sunday. With TE Dan Gronkowski (ankle), his pseudo-backup, on injured reserve, the Broncos don't have a fullback on the active roster. It's possible Richard Quinn could fill that role on selected plays.
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