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Broncos Looking in the Mirror

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Broncos had to do a lot of things well to finish the season on an 11-game winning streak and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But between now and the start of the postseason on Jan. 12, the team will not spend its time admiring its work.

"Coaches have been giving us a good slice of humble pie, just keeping us working and keeping our mindset on our goals, so that's a good thing," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said.

Despite a 13-3 record that included a dominant finish to the season, the Broncos believe they have a number of improvements to make. And it's those areas where the Broncos can grow, not the things the team does best, that the players are hearing about from the coaching staff this week.

"It's not a week for your confidence in the sense that you look back at some of the things you've done poorly throughout the season," tight end Joel Dreessen said. "You really need to focus on being better at those. That's what we're doing."

With the team's Divisional Round opponent yet to be determined, most of the work this week has been internal.

"Right now, I think we need to focus on us," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Make sure we correct the things that we struggle with or things that we've had little problems with and then from there, we'll find out who our opponent is and then start preparing for them."

Though Denver finished the year tied for the best record in the NFL, the team doesn't consider itself a finished product. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard said the team will use the bye week to "pick scabs" -- look back at mistakes made throughout the season to ensure that they don't happen again in the playoffs. 

"It's just ourselves, individual technique, anything," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said of what to correct. "As a player, look in the mirror and just try to get better. There is always room for improvement. We have a little more time than normal. It's valuable time and we have to take advantage of that."

On three occasions during the nine-game winning streak to finish the season – against the Chargers in Week 11, the Buccaneers in Week 13  and the Ravens in Week 15 – the Broncos allowed long drives late in games with scores essentially out of reach. Giving 100 percent effort for 60 minutes, regardless of what the scoreboard says, is one point of emphasis, especially for the defense.

"I think one thing we struggled with the last few weeks was finishing games and I think we did a better job last week, we've just got to grow from that," Bailey said. "It can't be a one-week thing where we do pretty good against Kansas City and then we face some of these better teams in the playoffs, games are going to be closer. Teams are going to be better. That's just how it is. We've got to make sure we play all 60 minutes."

In addition, the team has watched film from its games against two potential opponents — the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens — as well as game tape from the third possibility, the Indianapolis Colts.

Just four of the 12 teams in the playoffs earned byes this upcoming weekend. For every playoff contender, the goal is to win enough regular-season games to earn a break between the conclusion of the regular season and the start of postseason play. Quarterback Peyton Manning said the Broncos are taking full advantage of the privilege they have earned as the AFC's top seed.

"(Head) Coach (John) Fox has challenged us to try to improve this week," Manning said. "We're working on specific things out here, practice, whether it's different situations, certainly a great time for guys that are banged up or guys that are mentally or physically tired to get refreshed and get rested up, but I think when we're out on the practice field and in meetings, it's an extra week to get better and an extra week to prepare."

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