Cardinals, Broncos features battle of backup QBs

There likely aren't many NFL fans circling this game on their must-watch list Sunday afternoon.

Two teams with high expectations before the season, the Arizona Cardinals and host Denver Broncos enter this game with backup quarterbacks and a grand total of seven combined victories.

The Cardinals (4-9) lost Kyler Murray to a torn ACL in Monday night's loss to the New England Patriots. His backup, Colt McCoy, is 3-2 in games he's started during the 2021 and 2022 seasons and played virtually all of the game Monday after Murray was injured on the third play of the game.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury has been impressed with McCoy since he signed as a free agent in the 2021 offseason.

"The rapport (he has) with teammates is as good as I've ever seen," Kingsbury said of McCoy. "Whether it's DBs or linemen or linebackers, he can talk football as well with different position groups as anybody I've ever seen. The respect level they have for him is through the roof and he puts in the work. He's a brilliant football mind, and then he is really good when he gets a chance to play."

For the Broncos (3-10), losers of five consecutive games and nine of their last 10, Russell Wilson was in concussion protocol after being knocked out of Sunday's 34-28 loss to Kansas City and did not practice Wednesday. Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Kendall Hilton also sat out on Wednesday.

The Broncos announced Friday that Wilson cleared protocol but will not play Sunday.

"As an organization we decided to give him another week to get ready, so he's ready to go for the Los Angeles Rams (on Dec. 25)," coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "Russ is one of our ultimate competitors in this game, he's unbelievable."

Brett Rypien will make the third start of his career, his second of the season. Denver lost 16-9 to the New York Jets on Oct. 23 as Rypien completed 24 of 46 passes for 225 yards with one interception and a passer rating of 56.9.

The Broncos have allowed 17 points or fewer in eight games (winning just three times) and while they are ranked seventh in the league in fewest yards allowed (314.3), they are 17th against the run at 117.7 yards per game and 19th in yards per attempt (4.4).

The Cardinals have run the ball better in the last two games despite an offensive line that has only one starter from the beginning of the season on the field (right tackle Kelvin Beachum).

Running back James Conner has rushed for 205 yards on 40 attempts since Week 13 and has scored four rushing touchdowns in his past four games.

Arizona's defense, especially if it is without cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. for the fifth straight game because of a back injury, will be mindful of Denver receiver Jerry Jeudy, who caught eight of nine targets against the Chiefs and while he gained only 73 yards, three of the receptions were for touchdowns -- a career high.

If there is one positive trend for the Cardinals, they are 3-2 in true road games, while winning only one of seven home games as well as losing a neutral-site game in Mexico City. Denver is 2-4 at home and have lost four straight -- although they have all been one-score losses by a total of 22 points, with two in overtime.

The Cardinals placed Murray and wide receiver Rondale Moore on injured reserve Wednesday to give them 15 players, including seven offensive starters, on IR. That also includes two practice-squad players on the injured list. One is right guard Will Hernandez, who was designated for return Wednesday. The only team with more is Denver with 17, a number that grew this week with the addition of running back Mike Boone.

However, the Broncos designated edge rusher Randy Gregory for return Wednesday and he is expected to play Sunday. Gregory has been on IR since suffering a knee injury in Week 4.

Defensive end Zach Allen had hand surgery for an injury suffered against the Patriots and won't play this week. The Cardinals had a walk-through Wednesday and cornerback Murphy was an estimated non-participant.

--Field Level Media

Denver BroncosBroncos3071424
Arizona CardinalsCardinals063615
Passing:Brett Rypien 21/26 (197 YDS)
Rushing:Latavius Murray 24 CAR (130 YDS)
Receiving:Jerry Jeudy 7 REC (76 YDS)
Passing:Trace McSorley 7/15 (95 YDS)
Rushing:James Conner 16 CAR (63 YDS)
Receiving:DeAndre Hopkins 7 REC (60 YDS)