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Mile High Hopes

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, the 2022 Arizona Cardinals can accomplish what no Cardinals’ team has ever done: coming home with a win over the Broncos at Mile High stadium.

This game will feature a battle of QB2s: Colt McCoy vs. Brett Rypien.

Kliff Kingsbury, Colt McCoy and the the Cardinals’ offense have the challenge of facing off against one the NFL’s best defenses. If Hollywood Brown can shake off his illness that has limited his participation in practice this week, it will be the third game in a row that Hollywood has lined up with Deandre Hopkins —- and the first time with Colt McCoy getting the first team reps all week.

This game is a homecoming of sorts for Trey McBride, who was the Mackey Award winner (the best college TE) last year at Colorado St.

On the flip side, while Russell Wilson cleared concussion protocols, the Broncos have decided to sit him out this week. Brett Rypien will make the start, with old friend Jarrett Guarantano as the backup. Latavius Murray and Marlon Mack are the 1-2 RB punch, Jerry Jeudy is the bell cow WR and rookie Greg Dulcich from UCLA is their good, young TE.

The Cardinals’ defense should continue to feature their host of young talents with Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders at the linebacker spots, Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson at the safeties, JJ Watt and Leki Fotu on the interior and with Zach Allen sidelined this game by a hand injury, perhaps will might see the debut of Colorado St. DT Manny Jones. With this week’s release of CB Trayvon Mullen, rookie Christian Matthew is expected to join Marco Wilson and Antonio Hamilton (if active) at the corner spots. Jace Whittaker was re-signed this week to provide added depth at the nickel.

The Broncos’ defense is led by the inside DT trio of DreMont Jones, D.J,. Jones and DeShawn Williams. OLB Randy Gregory is hoping to return to action this week and join young edge rushers Baron Browning and Nik Bonitto. Josey Jewell is a high volume tackler in the middle. Yet, the Broncos’ secondary is arguable the strength of the defense, with Patrick Surtain II, Damarri Mathis and K’Waun Williams at the corners and the prolific tandem of Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson at the safety positions.

This game will also be a battle of makeshift offensive lines. The Broncos will be without LT Garrett Bolles and LG Dalton Risner with T Calvin Anderson (65.0) and G Quinn Bailey (57.9) taking their spots. Veteran C Graham Glasgow (56.6) has had an up and down season, but the right side of the Broncos’ line with RG Quinn Meinerz (74.5) and RT Cameron Fleming (73.1) has been strong.

The Cardinals’ OL is getting a boost this week with the return of RG Will Hernandez (63.7). It is likely that Max Garcia (49.9) will switch over to LG, while Josh Jones (72.4) and Kelvin Beachum (70.8) play the tackles and Billy Price (48.2) mans the pivot.

The high altitude should be appealing to P Andy Lee (47.0 ave.) and K Matt Prater (12/14 FG, 14/14 XPT). Their counterparts, P Corliss Waitman (46.2 ave.) and K Brandon McManus (23/30 FG, 15/17 XPT) have equally strong legs. Greg Dortch (6.7 ave.) faces off against Montrell Washington (8.9 ave.) in the battle of punt returners.

While it is understandable that with the team’s playoffs chances out of reach, fans would like to see the Cardinals obtain the highest draft pick possible, the team’s first-ever win at Mile High stadium would feel especially gratifying, especially in light of the continued turmoil surrounding the organization.

As a Cardinals’ fan, I always root for the team to win. I always believe that nothing sets the tone for the team and the organization better than winning.

For example, there is no doubt in my mind that the Seahawks, at 5-11 coming to Glendale, and upsetting the 11-5 Cardinals in Week 18, with seemingly nothing to play for, helped to set the tone for their renaissance this season. One could argue that they aced the 2022 NFL Draft as well as any team in the NFL. That’s the greatest win-win. Win on the field and win in the NFL Draft.

If the NFL Draft has proven one thing over the years, it’s not about where your team drafts, it’s about the players your team drafts and how your coaches integrate and develop them.

On Thursday morning, I was invited (thanks to Seth and Jim Davis) to join The Jim Davis “Know Your Enemy” Show on Denver’s 1340 AM for a preview of the game. It’s a short segment, should you wish to listen in.

What are your thoughts heading into this week’s game?