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Battle of Backups: Broncos’ QB Brett Rypien vs Cardinals’ QB Colt McCoy

Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and Broncos’ Russell Wilson OUT with injuries

Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images (Left), Photo by Harry How/Getty Images (Right)

In what was supposed to be a matchup between two highly-paid quarterbacks will now be a battle between their best backup passers.

The Denver Broncos (3-10) acquired Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks via trade during the offseason and soon after he was given a five-year $245 million extension. Although he cleared concussion protocol from a head injury that he sustained in the 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend, the Broncos are being cautious with Wilson and have ruled him out against the Cardinals.

Just like Denver, Arizona (4-9) rewarded their franchise quarterback handsomely. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals agreed to a five-year $230.5 million extension in the offseason after achieving a playoff berth in 2021. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in last week’s 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots, effectively ending his season and will likely miss more time heading into the 2023 league year.

Cardinals are tied with the Rams for last place in the NFC West as the Broncos have sole possession of last place in the AFC West. It is fair to say that neither of their franchise quarterbacks have come close to meeting expectations in their disappointing 2022 season.

In place of Russell Wilson will be fourth-year quarterback Brett Rypien. 12th-year veteran Colt McCoy will start in place of Kyler Murray.

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Brett Rypien has been with the Broncos for four years since signing with Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He is the nephew of Super Bowl 26 MVP Mark Rypien, who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for the then called “Washington Redskins” in 1992. In his one start this season, Brett Rypien completed 24-of-46 for 225 yards and an interception in the loss to the New York Jets in Week 7. Rypien had a passing touchdown and an interception after Wilson went down with an injury last weekend. He played in only six career NFL games and his inexperience was on display as he had two near interceptions in his one start this season.

Rypien lacks the arm strength to attack defenses deep down field as well as the desired mobility to evade pressure. However, the Cardinals’ tendency to rely on soft zones or off-coverage play from their cornerbacks has allowed for easy completions (66.8%) for opposing quarterbacks. Arizona has the fifth-fewest sacks on defense in the NFL and losing Zach Allen, who’s second on the team in sacks (5.5), is a big hit for a pass rush that has not been good this year. Jerry Jeudy is coming off a career game with three touchdowns so expect Rypien to target him often as he looks for short completions to turn into huge gains.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Colt McCoy has done everything expected from a backup quarterback with over a decade of experience. In Week 10, he led the Cardinals to a 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Arizona was down 17-10 heading into halftime against the San Francisco 49ers before the offense and defense completely fell flat in the second half 38-10 in Week 11. In Week 14, the Cardinals had a 13-10 lead at halftime against the New England Patriots before turnovers and a poor defensive showing led to a 27-13 loss. McCoy relies on the quick pass game which has resulted in an efficient 69.4 completion percentage on 111 pass attempts this season.

Considering the Cardinals’ offense had struggled against two good defenses this season with McCoy at the helm, that trend might continue on Sunday as the Broncos 18.3 points allowed per game is the fourth-fewest in the NFL. Couple this with the fact that the Cardinals have never won at Empower Field in Mile High with a 1-9-1 record against the Broncos all time, this matchup should be in Denver’s favor in what should be a low-scoring game.