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Broncos vs. Cardinals: Close game expected in Denver this Sunday

Five Questions with SB Nation's lead Cardinals blogger, Jess Root of Revenge of the Birds.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

1. While we all hope Carson Palmer returns quickly, it looks possible that Drew Stanton might be the Cardinals starting quarterback this week and possibly weeks to come. What are Cardinals fans' take on Stanton so far and moving forward?

Some fans are crazy and think there is no real dropoff with Stanton in the game. There is certainly a dropoff. But if he plays turnover free football, it isn't a noticeable dropoff. Bruce Arians trusts Stanton and the offense doesn't really change, but the majority of fans don't love the season outlook if Stanton starts the rest of the year. However, as we saw with Kevin Kolb in 2012, if a QB plays clean, careful football and the defense plays at a high level, they can win close games, as they did in their 4-0 start in 2012.

2. Who is the most dangerous weapon on the Cardinals offense in 2014?

Andre Ellington is expected to be, as he has big play written all over him, both as a runner and a pass catcher. But so far it has been rookie receiver John Brown, who has three receiving touchdowns this year. Michael Floyd is making big plays down the field as well. But Ellington's play is key. Arizona has yet to lose a game when he carries the ball at least 10 times.

3. The Cardinals run a blitz-heavy defense, and Peyton Manning has been known to beat the blitz throughout his career with quick throws to his tight ends and slot receivers. Who is going to match up against the likes of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas on the Cardinals D?

Jerraud Powers has been the inside corner since the start of the season, but when Tyrann Mathieu is a full go, he will probably slide back in as the slot guy and see time covering both Welker and J Thomas. We will also see rookie safety Deone Bucannon in coverage in dime packages. He has been playing "dollar" linebacker all year in sub packages. 

4. You look at the Broncos defense. What do you try to attack?

You have to hold up in pass protection. Assuming Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie continue to be very good against the pass rush, Arizona can just run its game plan -- run the ball some and attack down the field when there is an opportunity. The numbers say the Cardinals will be able  to move the ball against Denver, but will they be able to score touchdowns instead of field goals. 

5.  What are your predictions for the game, and if you don't mind, your predictions for the NFC West. Will the Cardinals come out a playoff team or division winner this year?

In the division, Arizona still has to be seen as a dark horse, meaning they are third, even with a win over the Niners. While they could win the division, with Seattle's play, you just can't make that call confidently. Will the Cardinals be a playoff team? We will know more after Sunday. If they can get a road win over the Broncos, you have to like them to be able to make the postseason. In my season projections, I had them once again winning 10 games but missing the postseason.

As for Sunday's game, the defense will show up. It will be a close game. While I will not confidently pick a Cards win, for our purposes here, I will. Arizona sneaks out of Colorado with a 20-17 win. Peyton gets his 500th TD, but Drew Stanton connects with Larry Fitzgerald for a late fourth quarter touchdown and the defense holds up in the fourth quarter once again.

Big thanks to Jess for taking the time!