Cardinals vs. Broncos 2013 game preview: Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer relax as preseason ends

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning will watch from the sidelines as the backups attempt to play respectable football.

The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals are finishing their preseason schedule on Thursday night against each other at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Broncos kick the regular season off versus the Baltimore Ravens, hosting the Super Bowl champs for what the home fans are hoping proves to be a bit of revenge for their loss in the AFC Divisional playoffs.

Arizona has looked very good this pre-season, sporting a 2-1 record and only giving up a combined seven points in two games before losing 24-7 last week to the San Diego Chargers. Carson Palmer has made a world of difference offensively, replacing the brutal combo of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Kevin Kolb. Palmer isn't a top tier quarterback, but certainly a major upgrade.

Meet the Cardinals

Arizona is hoping for a fresh start this season with a new head coach in Bruce Arians. Arians comes over from the Indianapolis Colts, where he was originally hired to be the offensive coordinator. However, once Chuck Pagano was struck ill, Arians took charge as the interim head coach and helped to guide Indianapolis to a playoff berth.

Defensively, the Cardinals are locked and loaded with a bevy of talent. Between defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Daryl Washington and Sam Acho, and Patrick Peterson on the corner, Arizona can really play. In a division with the defenses of the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals defense is often overlooked. It shouldn't be, this could be a top-10 unit.

Meet the Broncos

It's Super Bowl or bust for Denver. Peyton Manning is 38 years old, and the clock is ticking on him trying to win a second championship. After adding Wes Welker, Louis Vasquez and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Broncos appear more primed than ever to get through the weak AFC. With most experts picking Denver to roll into a Super Bowl, there are only a few issues that could derail it.

The defense appears shaky with Von Miller being suspended for six games due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. On top of that, the Broncos watched Elvis Dumervil walk after failing to operate a fax machine properly. Without that duo, it'll be very hard to generate pressure on a consistent basis. Even when Miller returns, he'll be keyed on constantly. The other problem is the lack of a proven running back. Nobody fears Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman.

Local takes: Cardinals

Seth Cox of Revenge Of The Birds talks about the offensive line issues in Arizona:

With the ascension of Paul Fanaika into the starting roster, the idea of quality NFL depth and offensive linemen is still a thorn in the side of the Cardinals, and it stems from having to plug holes in free agency consistently.

I liked the signing of Fanaika as a depth guy; he offered good positional versatility being comfortable as a guard and a right tackle, but asking him to start at least ten games, at a new position, is quite a tall task.

Local takes: Broncos

Over at Mile High Report, Jon Heath talks about his disdain for Ravens banners showing up in Denver:

Keep in mind that the team did not ask for this and there's nothing they can really do about it.

But frankly, it's appalling to see posters of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in downtown Denver, especially after the way Denver's season ended in January.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Mile High Report and Revenge Of The Birds, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@MileHighReport

@BMoreBeatdown redicting the 53-man roster -- Week 6, second-to-last projection: http://t.co/7nafqCDZsF

@MikeKlis

@jeffzrebiecsun

Prediction

The Broncos are at home and the superior team, but that doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot in the preseason. Denver and Arizona will be playing a bunch of guys who will never sniff an NFL game, mixed in with some legitimate backups and the occasional starter. All of that said, everybody just wants to escape this game healthy and start gearing up for some real football.

My pick: Broncos 24, Cardinals 13

Odds

The line is at even for the game with an over/under of 38.5, according to oddsshark.com.

Next week

The Broncos open the regular season at home against the Baltimore Ravens while the Cardinals travel to take on the St. Louis Rams.

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Uffsides: Previewing the NFC

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