Back Cardinals Over Broncos In Barkley-Lynch Third-String QB Duel

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 3:07 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016 3:07 PM UTC

Denver is the defending Super Bowl champion, and many NFL experts think Arizona will win that this season. The two close the preseason against one another Thursday. Join expert capper for his NFL picks.

Broncos What To Watch For
Of course, Denver's starting quarterback battle has been decided, with 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian, who didn't even have a very memorable career in college at Northwestern, surprisingly winning the job over veteran Mark Sanchez, who has started two AFC Championship Games in his career.

The question now is whether the Broncos even keep Sanchez on the roster at all. If they don't, they won't owe the Eagles a conditional draft pick from the trade for Sanchez. The Broncos would also save $4.5 million. But does Coach Gary Kubiak want to have the inexperienced Siemian as his starter and raw rookie Paxton Lynch as his backup with no veteran on the roster? I'd find that hard to believe. There was talk the Broncos called Dallas to see if it was interested in Sanchez after losing Tony Romo to a fractured vertebra in his back, but the Cowboys said no thanks at that salary and for a late-round draft pick. Perhaps the Minnesota Vikings will have interest now after the potential season-ending injury to Teddy Bridgewater in practice on Tuesday. Sanchez is 20-for-30 passing for 219 yards to go with one touchdown, one interception and two lost fumbles this preseason.

Siemian for sure won't play Thursday night against Arizona. Lynch will start and Kubiak has said that Sanchez would play only if Lynch were to be injured. NFL rosters are currently at 75 players and must be down to 53 by Saturday so that's the latest we will find out about Sanchez. He also didn't play in last week's 17-9 home win over the Rams that improved the Broncos to 2-1 this preseason. I previewed that Rams-Broncos game here at SBR and recommended Denver and the 'under.' Lynch was 6-for-13 for 57 yards.

The Broncos will have a new punter this season in seventh-round rookie Riley Dixon. He beat out Britton Colquitt, who was released on Monday. Colquitt was the longest-tenured Bronco, having been with the team since 2009. But he would have counted $4 million against the salary cap this year. Colquitt did play a big role in last year's AFC title game win over New England, hitting four punts inside the 20-yard line.

Denver is 2-1 ATS on NFL odds this preseason and 1-2 O/U.


Cardinals What To Watch For
You still won't convince me that preseason records matter, but Arizona is one of four winless teams. Not much is expected this season from the other three: Cleveland, Chicago, and New Orleans. Only the 1982 Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl after a winless preseason. The Cardinals' losses, to the Raiders, Chargers, and Texans, are all by at least 10 points.

Yet I doubt many, if any, starters play Thursday simply to avoid a goose-egg. That said, receiver John Brown and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, a newly-rich man, were both cleared off injuries for the preseason finale. Mathieu, a huge part of that very good Arizona defense, hasn't played in a game since tearing his ACL in Week 15 last year. Brown suffered a concussion early in training camp. Coach Bruce Arians didn't say the two would play Thursday.

Meanwhile, cornerback Mike Jenkins suffered a torn ACL in Sunday's loss to Houston and is done for the year, meaning rookie Brandon Williams and Justin Bethel are battling for the starting spot opposite star Patrick Peterson.

The starting QB on Thursday is expected to be Matt Barkley, who should be locked in as the No. 3 on the depth chart after the Cards released Jake Coker, who helped lead Alabama to last year's national championship. Barkley has been inconsistent in the preseason, completing 30-for-57 for 368 yards, two touchdowns, three picks and three sacks. Presumably, No. 2 Drew Stanton, not Carson Palmer, would play if Barkley got hurt.

Arizona is 0-3 ATS on NFL picks this preseason and 2-1 O/U.


Denver Broncos vs Arizona Cardinals
It's the 11th time in the past 13 seasons these two close against one another. Last year in Denver, the Broncos lost 22-20. Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal in the final minute as the Broncos failed to complete a perfect preseason. Chandler Catanzaro missed two PATs for Arizona. Neither Peyton Manning nor Palmer played. Siemian was 11-for-24 for 104 yards, a TD, and a pick. Overall, Denver leads the preseason series 16-8. The teams last met in the regular season on Oct. 5, 2014, with the Broncos rolling at home 41-20. Manning was stellar, passing for 479 yards and four touchdowns -- reaching 500 career TD passes in the game. Of course, he retired with the record. Palmer didn't play due to injury.

I'll take Arizona simply because Barkley has more NFL experience than Lynch does and the Cards are at home and maybe, just maybe, would like a preseason win. Go 'under' the total


NFL Free Picks: Cardinals -4 -110 & Under 38 -110
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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