Both teams will be desperate to get a win on Thursday night as the Denver Broncos travel to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals. In a game that both teams have to win to stay afloat, the Broncos are slight 1.5-point favorites to win with an over/under at 42 points.
After starting the season 2-0, the Broncos have now dropped four in a row and sit at 2-4 on the season. To be fair, they nearly knocked off the Chiefs a few weeks back and only lost to the Rams by a field goal last week, so they’ve played a tough schedule and been competitive with good teams. However, both of those games, as well as their two wins, came at home. In Denver’s two road games, they’ve lost by a combined 31 points.
Things haven’t been much better for the Cardinals this season, who lost their first four games of the season. Arizona managed to steal a game against the 49ers a couple weeks ago, but they got back on the losing side last week against the Vikings. Head coach Steve Wilks is already feeling the heat in his first season in Arizona and desperately needs a couple wins to help keep the pressure off.
Keep It on the Ground
Despite their struggles, the one thing the Broncos continue to excel at is running the ball. Early deficits the last couple of weeks have forced them to abandon the running game. But when given the opportunity, the rookie tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman has excelled. Against Arizona, a team yielding more than 150 yards rushing per game, the Broncos will hope to establish their ground game early on Thursday night.
Denver’s problem is they still don’t have enough balance with their offense. Case Keenum has not been the same quarterback he was last season and continues to be too turnover prone. Without Keenum playing better, it’s almost impossible for the Broncos to play from behind. To make matters worse for the Broncos, they’ve lost a couple of key offensive linemen to injury the past couple of weeks. The Broncos will have to find a way to at least keep up their strong rushing attack against the Cardinals despite a weakened offensive line.
Weakness Against Weakness
On the other hand, the Cardinals have had minimal success running the ball all season. Even with David Johnson returning from the injury that kept him out for almost all of 2017, the Cardinals have the fewest rushing yards in the NFL. Obviously, playing from behind doesn’t help them accumulate yards on the ground. But Johnson is only gaining 3.2 yards per carry, which is making things even more difficult for rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
Arizona may catch a break this week against a Denver defense that’s been shredded against the run the past two weeks. That could be the spark the Cardinals need to get their offense going. If not, Rosen will have to worry about a fierce Broncos pass rush that managed to five sacks against the Rams last week.
Someone Made a Guarantee
On the heels of a four-game losing streak, Denver linebacker Von Miller guaranteed the Broncos would win on Thursday, although he may have phrased it differently. If a Super Bowl MVP and six-time Pro-Bowler says it, then it must be true. The Cardinals appear to have far too many flaws to overcome. Bet on the Broncos -1.5 to cover against Arizona Thursday night.