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NFL Preseason Preview - Denver (1-2) at Arizona (1-3)



By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Peyton Manning's offseason decision on a new home has stabilized a shaky quarterback situation for the Denver Broncos, while subsequently continuing to leave the Arizona Cardinals in a state of disarray at the position.

Both the Broncos and Cardinals, the two teams that will square off Thursday at University of Phoenix Stadium in the last contest of this 2012 NFL preseason, were among the finalists to acquire Manning's sought-after services after the legendary quarterback was cut loose by the Indianapolis Colts in March. Arizona has held a summer-long competition between holdovers Kevin Kolb and John Skelton to determine its starting signal-caller in the wake of Denver winning the sweepstakes, a battle in which neither has yet to definitively emerge as a victor.

The scenario remains incredibly murky just over a week before the Cardinals open the regular season by hosting NFC West foe Seattle on Sept. 9, and Thursday's tilt won't be the determining factor after head coach Ken Whisenhunt announced that both Kolb and Skelton will not play.

Whisenhunt's choice of rookie Ryan Lindley to start the finale might be a clue that he's already made up his mind and hasn't revealed his thoughts publicly. Based on the bodies of work the two candidates have constructed this preseason, however, it's anybody guess as to who he'll pick.

Kolb has produced an uninspiring 49.7 passer rating through his four appearances, having completed just under 60 percent (22-of-37) of his throws for 203 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Skelton, who led Arizona to a 5-2 record in seven starts in place of his injured counterpart last season, hasn't been any better in going 14-of-25 (56 percent) for 131 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

Skelton seemed to have an edge heading into last week's matchup at Tennessee, but Kolb may have closed the gap or nudged ahead by outperforming his teammate in Arizona's 32-27 loss. Though the ex-Philadelphia Eagle tossed a pair of interceptions, he hit on 17-of-22 attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown after Skelton went a poor 4-of-10 for 41 yards with one pick.

The Cardinals also have quite of bit of uncertainty on the offensive line after left tackle Levi Brown tore his triceps in the club's win over Oakland on Aug. 17 and was ultimately placed on injured reserve. Career backup D'Anthony Batiste is now slotted into Brown's spot with rookie Bobby Massie, a fourth-round pick in April's draft, taking over as the new right tackle.

While tight end Rob Housler (hamstring) will join Kolb and Skelton on the sidelines this week, Whisenhunt did say that running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams would play against the Broncos. Both are coming off knee surgeries and have been brought along slowly during the preseason.

Manning is not expected to take part in Thursday's test after a strong one- quarter performance in this past Sunday's 29-24 loss to San Francisco, with veteran Caleb Hanie tabbed to start. Rookie Brock Osweiler, Denver's 2012 second-round pick who played his college ball at nearly Arizona State, is in line to see extensive action afterward.

A good showing by Osweiler, or a bad one from Hanie, could decide who begins Denver's primetime Week 1 showdown against Pittsburgh as Manning's main backup. Hanie has an advantage in experience and went 8-for-12 for 92 yards and a touchdown after relieving Manning against the 49ers, but also threw a costly interception that helped trigger San Francisco's comeback from a 17-0 deficit.

Manning gave Denver that big early advantage by throwing a pair of touchdown strikes to wide receiver Eric Decker and made good on 10-of-12 attempts for 122 yards in by far his best outing as a Bronco.

The Broncos hold a 14-6 overall advantage in the all-time preseason series and had topped the Cardinals five straight times in exhibition play before Arizona's 26-7 home win last year. The loss was only the third in Denver's last 12 preseason closeouts.

08/29 14:53:17 ET