ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson were two trendy picks to lead their teams on deep playoff runs this season. For that matter, two trendy picks to lead fantasy teams to playoff success, too.
It hasn’t exactly gone according to script.
What before the season looked like an enticing matchup featuring two mobile quarterbacks won’t be on display Sunday when the Cardinals visit Denver. Murray’s done for the season after tearing his ACL on Monday night. Wilson cleared concussion protocol Friday, but was ruled out nonetheless as a precaution.
So, it’s a clash of backups in Colt McCoy for the Cardinals (4-9) and Brett Rypien for the Broncos (3-10) in what has become a less-than-tantalizing game with both teams faltering.
What could be at stake: Job security for their coaches, with Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury and Denver’s Nathaniel Hackett each on the hot seat. The Cardinals have dropped three in a row and five of their past six. It was also recently announced general manager Steve Keim will take a leave of absence from the organization because of a health-related issue.
The Broncos are in the midst of a tailspin, too, losing five straight since a win over Jacksonville in London on Oct. 30. They’ve now missed the postseason for a seventh straight year.
Wilson got hurt diving headfirst toward the goal line early in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.
Both of Rypien’s NFL starts have come against the New York Jets. He beat them in 2020 but lost to them in October when Wilson was out with a pulled hamstring, only the fourth game he’s missed in his 11-year NFL career.
Rypien threw a touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy after replacing Wilson last week, but he also threw an interception and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs ran out the clock for their 14th consecutive win over the Broncos.
Stepping in for Murray will be the 36-year-old McCoy, who led the Cardinals to a 13-10 halftime lead against New England after Murray left the game, before the team faded in the second half.
“I’m saddened for Kyler,” McCoy said. “I said it in postgame, but I spend more time with him than my kids, right? We’re close. We’re in the room together. I feel for him.”
Broncos safety Justin Simmons said of playing the final month of the season with no postseason possibility: “I’m just going to go out there and do my job at the highest level of ability that I can. I’m not going to leave anything left in the tank.”
The last time the Cardinals played in Denver was 2014, when Peyton Manning threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-20 win. The late Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 226 yards and two scores.
The Broncos have a 9-1-1 mark against the Cardinals in the regular season, including 5-0 at home.
LIFE WITH MCCOY
McCoy has completed nearly 70% of his passes this season for 702 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. McCoy thought about retiring in 2020 after a litany of injuries, but decided to come back with the New York Giants before signing with the Cardinals last season.
“We’re not in the situation that we want to be in, but there’s some high-character guys in there,” McCoy said. “I think it’s my job, and a lot of the leaders on this team’s job, to get us all in the right mind(set) (to be) ready to go play this game, play out the rest of the season, treat it like professionals, and understand that the ball hasn’t bounced our way this year.”
Cardinals running back James Conner has rushed for 205 yards over his past two games, which is one of the most productive two-game stretches during his tenure with the team.
Conner ran for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. He probably would have had more opportunities on the ground, but when the Cardinals fell behind by two touchdowns, they were forced to throw the ball more.
“I’ve been pleased with the plans and the way he’s executed them,” Kingsbury said. “He’s running downhill and playing physical.”
AP Sports Writer David Brandt contributed to this report.
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