The Denver Broncos continue the tough stretch of their schedule by taking on the Arizona Cardinals this week. Fortunately, the game is in Denver, which obviously gives a slight edge to the Broncos. However, the Cardinals are not one of those teams that collapses on the road. They managed to go into Century Link Field and beat the Seahawks last season, which is something that no other team has done since Russell Wilson has taken over at quarterback.
Now, the first thing to watch for is something that is hard to do against the Cardinals; run the ball. With the bye week all wrapped up, it remains to be seen if the Broncos have fixed their running game. The problems start at the top, with the play-calling, then on to the offensive line, and finally to the running backs. Hopefully, that was a focal point during the bye week for this offense.
The Cardinals are not an easy team to run on either, so it will be the perfect test to see how much, if at all, the run game has improved. A big reason for the Cardinals success is defensive linemen, Calais Campbell. He is near an unstoppable force in run defense. It takes a lot to win the matchup against him. Getting Campbell out of the play is only the beginning. The Cardinals then have a solid set of run stopping linebackers and defensive backs, who are more than willing to come up and help.
The second thing to watch for is also on the offensive side of the ball. Did the bye week help Demaryius Thomas turn it around on the football field? There is no doubt that Thomas has been struggling. The multiple dropped passes and lack of impact, makes it quite clear. Only Thomas really knows what the issue is, and maybe some teammates and coaches, but it is on him to turn it around. It could be lack of confidence in himself. Being hurt, or personal troubles could factor in, but at the end of the day, who knows? Whatever it is, for his sake, hopefully it is sorted out and he can return to the dominate player he is and earn that new contract this off-season.
Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, the third thing to watch for is Danny Trevathan. He is back and expected to start, as we recently reported. His return should lead to improvements to a Broncos defense that has had some struggles. The improvements come in the form of depth as well. Trevathan upgrades over Brandon Marshall and replaces him as the starter. So, what happens to Marshall? It is simple really. They go back to what their original plan was, before Trevathan got hurt. Trevathan will play the “Will” linebacker position in base packages, but when they go into sub packages with two linebackers, you will see Trevathan and Marshall side-by-side.
Trevathan’s return does more than just help the starting unit. It also helps keep others rested and provides more versatility in what Denver can do. Trevathan being back is what should make this defense even more formidable than it has been, which, despite the struggles, has been a very solid unit.
Now, staying on the defensive side of the ball, the fourth thing to watch for is the battle in the trenches between the Cardinals underrated offensive line and the Broncos pass rush. Entering the season, there were a lot of question marks about the Cardinals offensive line. So far, they have answered them. They have allowed only four sacks in three games. Now they face up against a pass rush that has eight sacks in three games. It will be a fun battle to watch. One of those units will win their respective matchup, but who will it be?
The final thing to watch for, are the Broncos as a whole. Coming off a bye week should be huge for the Broncos, who have had struggles on offense and defense. They've had the time to work on them and potentially get them hammered out. In a tough game that could have huge implications on the season, it needs to be proven that the Broncos have those issues fixed.
This game will be big for both teams. Like the game against Seattle, this one will be a tough, physical matchup. The NFC West is one of, if not the, toughest divisions in the NFL, and not just by how well their teams do either. They are literally, one of the toughest. They play very fast, but not at the expense of physicality. This game will be blow for blow, maybe not on the score board, but tackle for tackle. Very likely the team who can be more physical than the other, comes away with the victory when the clock strikes zero.