The Arizona Cardinals will try to avoid a winless preseason and make decisions on final roster moves when they take the field Thursday against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in their final preseason game.
The Cards reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players Tuesday and will have to make 22 more cuts by Saturday at 1 p.m Arizona time. The team's reserves will see more action than usual as Bruce Arians and the rest of the coaching staff look to make some tough calls on who stays and who goes heading into the next week's regular-season opener against the New England Patriots.
Here are three important questions facing the Cards as they prepare to take on the Broncos at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on ABC15.
1. Will they win?
OK, we know the Cardinals will play almost exclusively reserve players Thursday, which means a win or loss won't be much of an indicator of how things will play out in the regular season. Also, the Cards went 0-4 during the 2009 preseason and then went on to go 10-6 and win a second straight NFC West championship.
Still, one statistic stands out in the back of my mind: Just one team in NFL history went on to win the Super Bowl after going 0-4 during preseason play: the Washington Redskins in what was a strike-shortened 1982 season.
Yes, Thursday's game is meaningless -- but wouldn't a small part of you feel a little better going into the season if the Cardinals finished off their preseason slate with a victory?
2. What will Matt Barkley's fate be?
The Cardinals released undrafted rookie quarterback Jake Coker on Monday. Could QB Matt Barkley be next? The fourth-year pro, who is expected to play the entire game Thursday, was acquired in a trade with the Eagles after the Cards' final preseason game of 2015. But the Cards might choose to have just two quarterbacks -- Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton -- on their 53-man regular-season roster.
Each NFL team is required to carry three QBs, even if one of those three is relegated to the practice squad. Barkley could remain with the team in that capacity, or he could be claimed by another team. But would a stellar showing against the Broncos be enough to convince the Cards to keep him on board heading into the games that count?
3. Who will start opposite Patrick Peterson?
The Cardinals' options at cornerback have been reduced significantly in recent days. On Sunday, they lost veteran CB Mike Jenkins for the season with an ACL injury, and on Tuesday, they reached an injury settlement with recently acquired Alan Ball.
That likely leaves fifth-year pro Justin Bethel and 2016 third-round draft pick Brandon Williams to slug it out for the starting job opposite five-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
Bethel saw his first action of the preseason Sunday and didn't look especially good, and Williams has struggled throughout preseason play, as well. Will either man be able to separate himself by impressing the Cards coaching staff Thursday?