ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Very rarely do NFL players get a Sunday off during the regular season, but after a Thursday night game last week, the Broncos had just that.
Some players took the opportunity to see their families, decorate for the holidays or work on their Christmas shopping lists.
Rookie running back Montee Ball said that he went back to Wisconsin and watched football with his parents on Sunday afternoon.
"It was great," Ball said. "A little mini-bye week to kind of get away from the game and recharge your batteries and get ready for this next stretch that we have."
Many of the Broncos were also watching football, a pastime they aren't often given the chance to partake in. The games on Sunday – and some favorable results – made for an entertaining afternoon.
"Yeah, some crazy football yesterday," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "A lot of strong fourth-quarter finishes from some teams. For us, fortunately, we're still No. 1 in our conference and we've got two weeks left to make sure that we keep it that way. We've got to come out stronger this week against Houston, play better—play better all-around to make sure that we control our own destiny."
Decker added that "obviously, deep down you wanted the Dolphins to win (against the New England Patriots) because of the situation," but ultimately he was just a fan and having the day off to watch football was fun.
Had the Patriots beaten the Dolphins on Sunday, New England would have assumed the top spot in the AFC. They would have had the same record as the Broncos but would hold the tiebreaker because of the head-to-head result.
Instead, the Broncos control their own destiny and if they win both of their remaining games, they will clinch the division and the conference – guaranteeing home-field throughout the playoffs. According to defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, that's exactly what the Broncos are aiming for.
"We want teams to come through Denver," Knighton said. "The good thing is we're in control of that again and we've got to handle our business."
Aside from having control of their own fate again, Week 15 also provided a valuable lesson to the Broncos and the rest of the playoff contenders.
"Well I think you just better have your 'A' game ready," Head Coach John Fox said. "This is a great example of that. You look at the top three seeds, us included, losing and all division teams that maybe weren't really high in the standings I think it just goes to show you that on any given Sunday you better be ready to play. If we learned a lesson, it wasn't maybe individual games, it's just what happened to us and what we need to do moving forward."