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Broncos vs Cardinals NFL Preseason: Can Sean Payton Start His Broncos Era With a Win?

Written by: Michael Sicoli
Published August 10, 2023
13 min read

It’s not often that an NFL game’s most interesting storyline rests on the sidelines. Both teams are debuting new coaches; a first-time Jonathan Gannon for Arizona and tried-and-true Sean Payton for Denver. Turning around these franchises won’t be done in either’s debut — particularly in the preseason — but this is the first step.

Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray obviously won’t be playing due to his knee injury — veteran Colt McCoy will start — and Denver’s Russell Wilson likely won’t play more than a drive or two. The preseason is designed to test the depth and see which players are worthy of roster spots.

For Arizona, there should be plenty of spots for those unknown names. The cupboard isn’t too full of talent in the desert, which is why the Cardinals enter this game as underdogs.

The Broncos have backups on defense — like Nik Bonitto and Jonathan Harris — who would arguably start on the Cardinals’ first unit. Offensively the Cardinals starting unit is easily the thinnest in the league, making it unlikely for Arizona to come out on top.

Say what you will about Jarrett Stidham, but he should be able to hold his own while throwing to rookie Marvin Mims against Arizona’s backups. Beyond that rests Ben DiNucci, which certainly isn’t ideal but is likely no worse than Day 3 prospect Clayton Tune or journeyman David Blough.

That said, there’s not much money to make on a moneyline that sits at -200 or worse on every sportsbook. How should you approach the spread in this game?

Broncos vs. Cardinals Betting Odds and Picks

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook. Check out other NFL betting sites.


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Broncos vs Cardinals Predictions

Pick: Cardinals +5.5 (DraftKings)

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Score Prediction

  • Broncos: 21
  • Cardinals: 17

Broncos vs Cardinals - The Spread

It feels wrong to pick Arizona in this one. But 5.5 points is a decent margin for a preseason game that always carries a lot of variances.

Gannon has already confirmed that McCoy will start in this game, and while he won’t blow anyone away, he should be capable against backups in August. A young coach always wants to prove a point, especially in a mediocre franchise. Meanwhile, Payton has never cared much for playing his starters in the preseason, and it’s only Week 1.

Gannon is instituting plenty of changes, from a new quarterback to several position changes on defense (Isaiah Simmons to DB full time, Zaven Collins to edge rusher) that could keep the first unit on for longer than usual. Payton will have no such thought for the Broncos.

Payton holds a 29-31 career record in the preseason. To be clear, the Broncos will likely win this game. The depth on both sides of the ball should be the difference at the end of the day. But the spread is large enough to take the home side, admittedly with as much comfort as betting on the Cardinals provides.

Payton is 8-9 in Week 1 preseason games. Play Cardinals +5.5 down to +4.5.

Broncos vs Cardinals - The Over/Under

The name of the game is the over. Because the Broncos will score against a depth-less defense and the Cardinals will hang around enough to join the club.

This isn’t an over/under to target, though, because it could easily swing either way. There will be ugly turnovers and stalled drives, but where those turnovers occur can impact whether the line barely hits or barely misses.

Stick to the spread on this one. If forced to pick, lean the over.

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How to Watch Broncos vs Cardinals 

  • What: Broncos vs Cardinals
  • When: 10 p.m. EST on Friday, August 11
  • Where: NFL Network
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Michael Sicoli

58 Articles

Michael Sicoli has been writing about fantasy football and betting within the NFL space since 2020. He works as a writer and content creator with ClubFantasyFFL and runs an NFL defensive (IDP) newsletter with The IDP Guys. A graduate from Quinnipiac University, Michael is a long-time NFL fan with a love for soccer and the NBA.

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