Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:01 AM

TNF - Broncos at Cardinals

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Denver (-1.5, 42) at Arizona, 8:20 pm ET, FOX/NFLN

Tampa Bay opened the week by letting go of defensive coordinator Mike Smith, who presided over the NFL’s second-worst defense and played scapegoat for a rough start compounded by the team being unable to rally against Atlanta in Jameis Winston’s first start.

A number of quarterbacks who opened the season as starters are already holding clipboards and signaling in plays instead of executing him, but desperation is sure to set in now that we’re into Week 7.

In Denver, there’s already talk that Vance Joseph could be coaching his final game given the bye week that lies ahead and the fact a loss would drop the Broncos to 7-16 under his watch. Since a dip in the team’s level on defense has played a role in the demise and that’s Joseph’s specialty, his seat has gotten uncomfortably warm. Denver has surrendered 23 or more points in all but one game this season and has allowed a running back to top the 200-yard mark against them in consecutive weeks.

Case Keenum hasn’t escaped criticism either. The quarterback brought into stabilize the position has been intercepted at least once in every game this season. There was a play last week where he fumbled after getting the ball slapped out of his hands while dropping back, picked it up and threw a pass right into a defender’s arms. Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman dropped the sure interception, but the play was telling given that it came on Denver’s first possession against an undefeated juggernaut that the Broncos couldn’t afford to make mistakes against if they were to have a chance.

It would be fair to say he hasn’t inspired confidence with his flippant attitude towards protecting the football, leading many to wonder whether backup Chad Kelly is ready to go yet. That question will be asked openly on Thursday night if Keenum fails to get it together in Glendale.

The Cardinals have only won once this season, which led first-year head coach Steve Wilks to address his own situation, making it clear that he understands nothing is guaranteed.

"I would say all our jobs are in jeopardy, including mine, if we don't win," Wilks said when asked if he was contemplating making a change on the offensive side of the ball since coordinator Mike McCoy is having little success despite moving on to a second quarterback.

The Cardinals rank last in yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage and average time of possession. Arizona is next-to-last among 32 NFL teams in points per game, yards per play and passing yards per game.

Sam Bradford was unable to get anything accomplished as the Cards were outscored 58-6 over their first two games and ended up getting pulled in favor of rookie Josh Rosen in a winnable game against the Bears in Week 3. That didn’t accomplish much besides getting the UCLA prospect’s feet wet against one of the NFL most feared defenses at the time since Khalil Mack was holding court throughout September.

Rosen has had some nice moments since taking over full-time with proper preparation over the course of the week, but he hasn’t been able to sustain drives. Arizona has only scored more than 17 points in a single game once this season, pulling out a 28-18 victory over San Francisco to open October. That scoring output is misleading since the Cards scored on a 23-yard fumble return to really swing a tight game and then capitalized on a short field for the second time to put the game away. The only offensive score to finish off a drive of over 26 yards came on a 75-yard pass from Rosen to fellow rookie Christian Kirk when the game was still in its early stages, so there really haven’t been many sustained drives to indicate progress is being made.

Arizona scored 17 points last week in a loss at the Vikings, but six of them came courtesy of a Budda Baker scoop-and-score. Only one of the Cardinals’ first eight drives lasted more than five plays and that resulted in a field goal. Larry Fitzgerald, Sr., a prominent Minnesota sports writer, tweeted out accurately that his famous son had never gone six games without a touchdown and called Wilks out for putting the offense in “questionable hands.”

It seems pretty clear that if McCoy can’t get results out of the team at home here, he’ll be out of a job. Wilks isn’t going to continue jeopardizing his own future without a pre-emptive strike. It’s also rather obvious that Joseph has to get his defense to rise up and ensure that Arizona’s offensive issues aren’t fixed against his group, once among the league’s most feared units.

Keenum will have to protect the football or risk being replaced since falling to 2-5 would be a disaster given preseason expectations. Even last year’s team won three of their first four before dropping eight straight.

Welcome to Week 7, everyone. The intensity is being ratcheted up a few notches and somebody is likely getting fired or demoted after this.

Denver Broncos
Season win total: 7 (Over -180, Under +150)
Odds to win AFC West: 25/1 to 50/1
Odds to win AFC: 50/1 to 90/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1 to 200/1
Arizona Cardinals
Season win total: 6 (Over -130, Under +110)
Odds to win NFC West: OFF to OFF
Odds to win NFC: 1000/1 to 1000/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 2000/1 to 2000/1

The NFC West winner future has been off the board at the Westgate Superbook for a couple of weeks now with the Rams running away with it. Kansas City is in the process of doing the same in the AFC West, though the Chargers have kept hope alive. The Bronocs were just 4/1 to win the division to open the season. Arizona's NFC West odds pre-Week 1 were 12/1.

Arizona joins division mate San Francisco as the biggest longshots to win February's Super Bowl (2,000/1). The Cardinals were 100/1 to win it all prior to the season opener. Denver was 40-to-1 to win the Super Bowl entering the season.

As far as this matchup is concerned, the Broncos were installed as a 2.5-point favorite when the Westgate's early numbers were announced, opening the week there but moving down to -1 before climbing back up to where it currently resides in the -1.5/2 range. Total numbers are available below.

Denver opened at -120 on the money line, climbed up as high as -140 at a number of shops and is now most widely available at -125. If you like the home 'dog outright, a payout on an Arizona win will get you +105 or even money, depending on the shop.


Joseph and defensive coordinator Joe Woods saw the Broncos’ run defense improve from 28th to fifth last season, so finding a way to curb 2018’s regression is a must. A defense that finished third in total yards allowed last year will have to overcome the absence of LB Shane Ray (knee), corner Adam Jones (thigh) and safety Dymonte Thomas (chest), but will have the services of defensive tackle Derek Wolfe to help anchor the front. Jones’ absence was a bit of a surprise and hinders a group that lost Aqib Talib to the Rams in the offseason and hasn’t been adequately able to replace his on-field contributions and energy. Punter Marquette King was cut this week after landing on IR due to an ab strain that cut his stint short after he came on board following Jon Gruden’s decision not to bring him back to the Raiders.

Arizona’s biggest issues come up front, which isn’t a good sign for an offense already struggling to make inroads. Guard Justin Pugh hopes to play through a hand injury and will test it out pre-game, which is an improvement from the ‘doubtful’ distinction he carried but doesn’t mean the Cards can count on him just yet. With fellow guard Mike Iupati (back) already ruled out, Arizona could be forced to rely on backups throughout the interior line since they already lost projected starting center AQ Shipley this preseason. The Cardinals will be facing depth issues against a Denver defensive front that is capable of wearing an offensive line down. While Patrick Peterson can still be counted on as a shutdown corner despite rumors he’s available with the team likely rebuilding on the run, there are still concerns in the secondary. Safety Tre Boston (ribs) has been ruled out while corner Jamar Taylor will also be a game-time call.


The number here opened at 40 at many shops but has been steadily bet up to it's current spot. [...] went up to 43 on Thursday morning while most had the number between 41.5 and 42.5.

The 'under' prevailed in Arizona's first four games this season but has been defeated in the last two since last week's 27-17 loss crept just over the 43.5 the total closed at. Denver became the first team to hold L.A. below 30 points this season to deliver the under on Sunday. The low-side is 4-2 in Broncos' games in 2018 despite their issues stopping the run. The under was 7-8-1 in Denver games last season but went 9-7 in games involving Arizona.

RECENT MEETINGS (Denver 4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS last 5; OVER 5-0)

10/5/14 Denver 41-20 vs. Arizona (DEN -7.5, 48)
12/12/10 Arizona 43-13 vs. Denver (AZ +4, 44)
12/17/06 Denver 37-20 at Arizona (DEN -2.5, 44)
12/29/02 Denver 37-7 vs. Arizona (DEN -13.5, 42.5)
9/23/01 Denver 38-17 at Arizona (DEN -8.5, 45)


Of the props available below at [...], I'd ride the first challenge being successful because most refs are terrible and will take a shot that neither team scores in the first half's final two minutes for a solid return.

Team to reach 10 points first: (Broncos -115, Cards -105)
Team to reach 20 points first: (Broncos -120, Cards +100)
Team to score first: (Broncos -110, Cards -110)
Team to score last: (Broncos -110, Cards -110)
First score: (Touchdown -130, FG/Safety +110)
First turnover: (None +800, Fumble +175, INT -160)
Highest scoring half: 1st -115, 2nd + OT -105)
Total FGs made by both teams: (3.5, Over (+110, Under -135)
Team with longest TD scored: (Broncos -115, Cards -105)
Team with longest FG made: (Broncos -110, Cards -110)
2-point conversion action: (Successful +340, No conversion -425)
4th down conversion action: (Successful -200, No conversion +170)
Will there be a defensive or special teams TD?: (Yes +220, No -260)
Will there be a punt return touchdown?: (Yes +1200, No -2000)
Will there be a score in 1st half's final 2:00: (Yes -210, No +175)
Will there be overtime?: (Yes +800, No -1250)
Will the game end in a tie: (Yes +3300, No -10000)
Will the larget lead top 13.5 points: Over +125, Under -145
Will the first coach's challenge be successful: Yes -120, No +100
Will there be 3 straight scores by either team: (Yes -170, No +150)


Westgate Vegas opens its advance lines for the following week on Tuesdays and Week 8 currently has the Cardinals liisted as a 2.5-point home favorite against their lone victim to date, the 49ers. The Broncos will be back on the road, visiting the AFC West-leading Chiefs on Sunday. Kansas City has been made an early 9.5-point favorite at Arrowhead.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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