They’re the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC — but if the Arizona Cardinals want to retain that status, they’ll have to defeat the defending AFC champions on the road.
Thanks largely to a defense that has hung tough despite the loss of multiple pieces from last year’s team, the Cardinals are 3-0 heading into their Week 5 matchup against five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning and the 2-1 Denver Broncos.
Like the Cardinals, the Broncos had a bye in Week 4. They opened the season 2-0 before dropping a 26-20 overtime decision on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. Trailing 17-3 heading into the fourth quarter, Manning helped the Broncos force OT with two touchdown passes in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Something will have to give on Sunday: the Cardinals have won their last three road games dating back to last season, but the Broncos are 15-1 in their last 16 regular-season home games.
Heading into Sunday’s showdown in the Mile High City, we’ll go behind enemy lines to keep you posted on everything that’s going on with the Broncos.
Friday, October 3
• Broncos to honor breast cancer survivors during Sunday’s game (The Denver Post)
The NFL is now in the midst of breast cancer awareness month and the Broncos are starting October with a halftime ceremony to honor nearly 100 breast cancer survivors.
• Denver needs to get WR Thomas more involved on offense (Bleacher Report)
The connection between Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas has been lucrative for the Broncos over the last two seasons, but the two have not been on the same page so far in 2014. If the Broncos are to get the offense back to explosive levels, they need to get Thomas more targets and open up the whole field.
Thursday, October 2
• Coaches rave about Manning’s ability to chew up knowledge (Mile High Report)
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and assistant head coach Tom Moore have a lot of experience with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, after coaching him with the Indianapolis Colts. The coaches praised the way Manning could eat through game information like an animal.
• Denver running game needs improvement to prevent shakeups (The Denver Post)
The Broncos currently rank 29th in the NFL in yards per carry, with the offensive line getting much of the blame. If the running game continues to struggle, the offense may have to return to its unbalanced, pass-heavy attack from last year.
With the Cardinals still unsure whether Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton will start at quarterback against Denver, the Broncos defense is just going about their normal gameplan, ready for both possibilities.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton doesn’t have a touchdown in his career, but he has high hopes for his first triumph to the endzone. Knighton is persistent with coaches that he wants to be on the receiving end of quarterback Peyton Manning’s historic 500th touchdown pass.
Wednesday, October 1
As one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, the Cardinals are garnering a lot of attention from the Denver Broncos. While Arizona’s defense continues to impress other teams — including the Broncos — Denver’s defense will have a boost on Sunday with the return of linebacker Danny Trevathan.
• Broncos face tough choices in pass defense (ESPN.com)
As always when facing the Cardinals, the Broncos will make covering Larry Fitzgerald a priority. However, with the play of Michael Floyd and John Brown this season, Denver can’t afford to slack off other players. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Chris Harris will be heavily relied upon in this matchup.
Danny Trevathan is a tremendous asset for the Denver Broncos’ defense. Sunday’s game against the Cardinals will be his first back from a leg injury. Brandon Marshall — who filled in for Trevathan — will now focus more on nickel packages and continue to contribute to Denver’s defense.
Tuesday, September 30
• LB Trevathan is ready to shine in his return from injury (The Denver Post)
The Broncos lost a defensive leader in early August when Danny Trevathan went down with a left leg fracture. Now that the bone is healed and the Cardinals are coming to town, the normally talkative star is quiet in preparation for his season debut.
• Denver’s pass rush focuses on creating havoc Sunday (ESPN.com)
No matter who is taking snaps for Arizona on Sunday, the Broncos linebackers and defensive line know what to expect. Playing an almost exclusive pocket passer for the first time this season, the Denver defense is looking forward to creating pressure without worrying about containing a runner.
• The Broncos scored with last-second replacement K McManus (The Denver Post)
After kicker Matt Prater was suspended for the first four games of the season, the Broncos had to rally and find a worthy short-term option to handle the position. Brandon McManus has been impressive for the Broncos, even if the job is only temporary.
Monday, September 29
• Broncos get back to work with work to do (ESPN.com)
While the AFC West may not be the best division in the NFL, it is tough. In order to make another trip to the Super Bowl, Denver will have to deal with a difficult upcoming schedule, with games against Arizona, San Francisco, and AFC West-leading San Diego.
• Denver Broncos Back to Work After Bye Week (Fansided)
This year’s bye week came at a fortunate time for the Broncos, who are recovering from multiple injuries. But Denver continues to have their work cut out for them, facing another playoff-caliber team in the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. This is not a matchup the Broncos can take lightly.
• On touchdowns, history and Peyton Manning (ESPN.com)
Peyton Manning currently sits at 499 career touchdown passes, with an average of just over 2 scoring passes per game. The only player with more touchdown passes than Manning is Brett Favre with 508, a number Manning should soon eclipse. Manning’s passing has been so incredible that he already has the second highest amount of touchdown passes in Broncos history, despite only having played 35 games for them.
• Denver Broncos Rookie Report at Season’s Quarter Mark (BleacherReport.com)
At the one-quarter mark of the season, it’s time to look at what progress Denver’s rookies have made. Cornerback Bradley Roby out of Ohio State has had a bigger role, with Chris Harris coming back from an ACL tear and playing limited minutes. So far, Roby has recorded 18 tackles, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery. Other impressive rookies include linebackers Lamin Barrow and Corey Nelson, and wide receiver Isaiah Burse.
Denver’s biggest strength lies in Peyton Manning and his passing ability. If the Broncos want to be a highly successful team, they need to stick with their passing and not try to win games on their defense or running game. The Broncos are a high-octane, high-scoring team, and that identity is what wins them games.