It's been a tough couple of weeks for the Denver Broncos.
First came the devastating loss of wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, followed by the nations' most devastating tragedy, and topping it off, the unexpected surgery to Terrell Davis' right knee, which will sideline the former MVP a minimum of 4-6 weeks.
Sunday evening they will attempt to get back on track, as they head to the Valley of the Sun to take on the Arizona Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium.
The Cardinals have had an equally strange start to their season, which technically has not yet begun.
Following a week one bye, they were hit with the NFL postponement of week two, due to the attacks in New York and Washington DC. Now, twenty-four days since they played their last preseason game, the host the Broncos in their first official game of the 2001 season.
"If you're not itching to play at this time of the year, then something is wrong with your football team," Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan told reporters. "I think both teams are looking forward to the matchup.
"Arizona, not having played a regular-season game, obviously is really excited about finally getting a chance to go out there and play. We know we're going to get their best shot. If we're not ready, we'll be in trouble."
The Broncos and Cardinals have met only five times during the regular season, with Denver holding a 4-0-1 advantage in the all time series. Three of those Bronco victories came at Mile High Stadium, one came at Arizona and the lone tie dates back to 1973 when the teams battled to a 17-17 tie.
The most recent game, Nov. 5 at Mile High Stadium, Dever rolled to an easy 38-6 victory, sparked by a 16 of 21 passes, 256 yard, three-touchdown performance by John Elway. Terrell Davis, who was a rookie at the time, showcased his talents with 135-yards on the ground.
This week he won't be afforded that opportunity as Mike Anderson will be moved into the starting lineup in Davis' place. Anderson, who ironically replaced Davis last year, is no stranger to the Broncos offense, having rushed for 1,487 yards and earning the 2000 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
"I've spent a lot of time watching the Denver Broncos on both sides of the football and in the seven years he's been there, Mike Shanahan has put together a very very formidable outfit," said Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis.
"They systematically went after the Giants. You start watching that video and all of a sudden they've accumulated nearly 500 yards of offense, 35 minutes time of possession, and 31 points. And the Giants have been a strong defensive football team the last couple of years."
Arizona, led by hometown hero Jake Plummer, look to rebound from last years' disappointing 3-13 record, hoping to regain some of the form that took them to the 1998 NFL playoffs.
"He's a very talented player, and he has a good supporting cast, Shanahan said of Plummer. "Our defense will be tested."
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