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Cardinals vs. Broncos preview: 'Pressure up the middle' is how to beat Peyton Manning

We talk with Mile High Report.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

We didn't get a podcast done, but I was able to exchange five questions with Mile High Report lead writer, Kyle Montgomery.

Here the questions I asked and how he answered.

ROTB: How much of a difference will Wes Welker make with his return? The offense hasn't quite been video game level this year. Why is that?

MHR: At MHR, we talked all offseason how the Broncos offense, statistically, was likely to regress toward the mean, and I think that's just the natural outcome we're seeing here. The Broncos are still doing very well - 8 passing touchdowns through 3 games still puts Manning on pace to break Denver's franchise records for passing touchdowns had 2013 never happened. So while the offense hasn't had a blowout 7-TD game yet, it's been good.

Wes Welker returned in Week 3 in a limited capacity; I expect, given the bye and another few weeks to recover from his concussion, that he'll play bigger role in Week 5. He's a big part of what Manning does. He and Manning share a brain when it comes to Welker's option routes, and he has the speed to burn most nickelbacks with his cuts. Manning and Welker have planned, practiced, and timed these plays to near-perfection, making it nearly impossible for defenses to cover. It isn't quite the same when Andre Caldwell is in the slot. Welker gives the Broncos a lot of options to move the chains.

ROTB: What is the general feel of Broncos fans towards this game? Is it viewed as just another game, or is there a heightened level of urgency because it is another NFC West team like the Seahawks, built in many ways with the same principles?

MHR: I sense heightened urgency just because the Cardinals are very good. You can compare the Cardinals and Seahawks, and we certainly have, but the Cards are different in a lot of ways. So the urgency doesn't stem from NFC West comparisons; it stems from the fact that the Cardinals are 3-0, were 10-6 last year, and have beaten some pretty good teams already this year. I think the Broncos have a healthy respect for Arizona and a lot of fans do too.

ROTB: Where do you see the most favorable matchups for the Broncos? What about the matchups you worry about?

MHR: I see favorable matchups at slot receiver and tight end, where Welker and Julius Thomas will play key roles in giving Manning a quick outlet. On the defensive side, we scouted the Cardinals offensive line and think there's an opportunity for DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller to apply some pressure. I like the way Denver's pass rush matches up for this game.

The Cardinals rush defense worries me; the Broncos have not gotten their running game going at all in 2014, and facing a defense that has now allowed running backs even 3 yards per carry doesn't bode well. On the other side, I worry about the Cardinals' running game and Andre Ellington. I like the fact that starting linebacker Danny Trevathan is returning; he has a nasty demeanor I'm hoping will propagate to his teammates and boost the run defense.

ROTB: If you had to choose as a defensive coordinator, how would you scheme against Peyton Manning?

MHR: Pressure up the middle. It has always been and always will be Peyton Manning's Kryptonite. The difficult part is how quickly he gets rid of the football. I know the Cardinals like to blitz, a lot, but Manning is leading the NFL in holding the football for only two seconds. If I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm finding a way to get pressure in his face - and hitting him - as much as possible, but knowing I have to blitz quickly. The delayed looks the Cardinals have shown probably won't work with Manning. The football will be out of his hand.

ROTB: Which division is better, the NFC West or AFC West and why? And what about a prediction for the game?

MHR: One one hand, the AFC West boasted three playoff teams a year ago and also represented the AFC Champions.

On the other hand, 43-8.

It's not really close, when it comes down to it. The NFC West is the best division in football. But I think, between the Chiefs and Chargers and yes the Broncos, the AFC West is really hot right now. If that can be sustained into the playoffs, it wouldn't surprise me to see another West Conference Super Bowl, whether it's the Seahawks and Broncos again or one or two other teams. I think the West divisions hold the claim on the prized jewels of each Conference.

Game prediction: I like the Broncos at home after the bye. If this was in Arizona directly after the Seahawks game, I think I'd choose differently. But I've got 24-18 Broncos.