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Broncos vs Cardinals preview: Welcome to do-or-die Thursday Night Football

Both teams enter the short week in desperate need of a win to keep their dimming hopes alive

Welcome to do-or-die. In Week Seven.

The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals enter the short week in similar positions — with their respective seasons hanging by a fingernail, as well the job security for the two head coaches. At least there’s drama for a Broncos game, though the most intriguing aspect of Thursday’s game will come from who loses and the course of action that team chooses to take.

Vance Joseph and the Broncos were in a similar position a few weeks ago against Todd Bowles and the New York Jets. We all know what happened next. Will Joseph and his squad save another team and head coach? Given the success rate Denver has on the road, it’s a safe bet at this point. In 10 road games under Joseph, the Broncos are 1-9. Denver (2-4) can’t win on the road in a normal week, yet somehow Joseph and this team will do it on a short one against a bad Cardinals (1-5) team?

As Adam Malnati and I said on the latest MHR Radio Podcast, make no mistake, Arizona is bad. The Broncos should win this game, but, again, how many times have we said that the last two seasons only to come away angered and shocked by the outcome?

Offensive Rankings

Denver: Twelfth in overall offense (220.5 yards), 10th in rushing (124.2), 16th in passing (263.5) and 26th in points (20.0).

Arizona: Thirty-second overall offense (468.4 yards), 32nd in rushing (64.0), 31st in passing (156.5) and 31st in points (13.7).

Defense Rankings

Denver: Twenty-seventh in overall defense (403.8 yards), 32nd in rushing (161.3), 11th in passing (242.5) and tied for 21st in points (25.7).

Arizona: Twenty-fourth in overall defense (394.3 yards), 32nd in rushing (151.2), 12th in passing (243.2) and tied for 13th in points (23.2).

Here are our keys to the game.

Some semblance of a run defense

I’m not asking for the Broncos to completely shut Arizona’s running game down. That is impossible and completely unrealistic at this point. What I mean is the rush defense simply can’t allow another running back to rush for 200 yards. The defense can surrender 199, but don’t allow the third-straight back to get 200. — Ian St. Clair

Play to Denver’s strengths

I’m going to go out on a limb here and get real edgy. Take a moment to get ready for this, folks: I’d suggest that we actually play to the strength on offense (rushing) and run the ball consistently to set up play action passes. Especially against a Cardinals team that’s giving up an average of 151 rushing yards per game so far. Case Keenum was a top QB in the NFL last year, due mostly to his skill at play action and how the Minnesota Vikings used that. He also sucks in the pocket. And yet the Broncos are one of the teams in the NFL that uses play action the least, and might use it the very least. Instead, Denver keeps Keenum in the pocket all the time. Because logic escapes the coaches, it seems. So my key to the game this week is for Bill Musgrave to not be an enormous idiot and actually fit his offense to his players. — Taylor Kothe

Limit Joseph’s damage

Give the headset back to Joe Woods on defense and tell your players to go back to playing aggressively like they did the first two weeks of the season; especially in the running game. Yes, the Broncos secondary can get burned by play action, but tell them to sack up and play better. You can’t keep letting runners get 5-8 yards downfield before first contact and play winning defense. — Sadaraine

Make change that matters

What astounds me the most is that Joseph is acknowledging that he’s fighting for his coaching career, yet his change is to bench your best guard. Look, holding a team, any team, to 23 points should be enough to win with. But Denver’s offense can’t score at all. So why in the world would Joseph keep trotting out the QB who got him to this “do-or-die” point? That’s the definition of insanity and what a coach so over his head that he can’t even use common sense looks like. Bench that worthless QB for the unknown. Keenum got you here, so if you want to keep circling the drain, by all means, keep Keenum in. But if you want a shot to win this game and keep your job, the actual change that needs to be made is to the person who touches the ball on every offensive play. Keenum got you here, and you desperately need to get out of this position. So why would you think he’s the answer? Put in Chad Kelly if Keenum goes back-to-back drives with a punt or turnover. Enough is enough. Kelly is the only way we win this game. — Pete Baron

Show some pride

The key to the game is the same as it has been since the beginning of the year. Nothing changes here. It’s about running the ball, and stopping the run. However, none of that matters if the Broncos can’t have some pride in their play. They have to decide: Is the season over, or are they going to fight for a victory? Short weeks are a huge indicator of the character of a team. Denver should win this game. The Broncos probably will, but they have to show they still have some fight, or nothing else will matter the rest of the season. — Adam Malnati

Stay the course

It’s plainly obvious that the fans, for once, know better than the coaching staff. The fan rhetoric is often absurd during losing streaks, but this time the calls to rely more on the league-leading rushing attack are spot on. Instead, week after week, Musgrave is focused on throwing the ball 70 percent of the time with disastrous results. At this point, is he just sandbagging? I’m starting to wonder ...

Why stay the course? Because I’m ready for a complete reset in 2019. The only guy I really hope sticks around is the Bear Wrestler (defensive line coach Bill Kollar). — Tim Lynch

Don’t lose

Also, just do what Von Miller said and go kick their asses.

Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann

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What are your keys to victory for the Broncos?