Paul Klee’s three thoughts on Thursday’s preseason game between the Broncos and Arizona Cardinals in Denver:

Rocky Mountain Showdown (in NFL)

The Broncos own a two-game preseason win streak over the Cardinals. But there’s another, more pressing streak on the line this week: a Colorado State presence on the Broncos roster. The Rocky Mountain Showdown is Friday — CU vs. CSU, the final episode at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. While CSU fans lament CU’s four-game win streak in the rivalry, the Rams have put a player on the Broncos roster every season since 2011. CU can’t say the same. CSU’s recent list includes Shaq Barrett, Kapri Bibbs, Ty Sambrailo, Caleb Hanie and Joel Dreesen. CU’s list in that timeframe features Phillip Lindsay, Tyler Polumbus and Justin Bannan (and probably Juwann Winfree this season) — but the Broncos were Buff-less in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

These days, the hope for CSU lies with linebacker Josh Watson, who’s on the bubble to make the 53-man roster. One man’s hunch: Watson slides to the practice squad, ending CSU’s impressive streak.

(Backup) QB controversy!

And you thought Broncos quarterback controversies were a thing of the past. Ha! In the grand tradition of Jake vs. Jay, Peyton vs. Brock and Paxton vs. Chad (Kelly), the Broncos saved the nerdiest for last: Kevin Hogan vs. Brett Rypien — for the backup gig. The tale of the tape gives a statistical edge to Rypien (57.6 percent completion rate, 62.8 QB rating, two sacks) over Hogan (50 percent, 51 rating, five sacks). The experience edge goes to Hogan, in his third season, over Rypien, the rookie who holds the record for passing yards in the Mountain West. That neither has separated himself suggests the Broncos should scan the other preseason games and waiver wire for an experienced free agent to shadow Joe Flacco. Truth is, if Flacco goes down, the Broncos season goes with him. But at least with Rypien there’s the allure of the unknown. Roll with the Boise State Bronco and cross your fingers Drew Lock returns from injury — soon rather than later.

No Luck for free thinkers

Did Andrew Luck retire... or die? The library of bleeding-heart thinkpieces devoted to Luck’s retirement read like a eulogy.

Who knew stashing away $97 million before your 30th birthday was such a sad thing? Sure, it’s a bummer the NFL lost a ferocious talent before it was realized in a Super Bowl appearance. About the only ones pleased to see Luck go were the opponents charged with beating him. That includes the Broncos, who got their butts kicked by Luck more than once. (The kicker was the Refund Game — 24-13, Colts, a 2014 playoff performance so lifeless that Broncos fans deserved a refund.) But anything that even remotely criticized Luck for burning Colts fans was shot down as a hot take.

This trend in sports media of siding with athletes — no matter what — is bad business, just like the timing of Luck’s retirement, two weeks before the season. Do it before the draft, at least, in case Indianapolis wants to draft his successor. The bigger journalism lesson here: don’t dare offer a dissenting opinion.

That’s no longer allowed.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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