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Next Day Notebook: Broncos Bye-Week Plans

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the AFC's top seed, the Broncos have an extra week to prepare for their first playoff game, which will come in the Divisional Round on Jan. 12th at 2:30 p.m. MST.

It's a leg up on whomever travels to Sports Authority Field at Mile High in two weeks, but how will the team use it?

"We'll treat it much like any other (regular-season) bye week," Head Coach John Fox said. "We'll work in areas, scenarios, situations maybe that we haven't worked on in a while or haven't arose during the season."

The players are off on Monday and Tuesday and will report back to the facilities on Wednesday morning. The team will hold practice on Wednesday through Friday, just like any other week.

The unusual part about this week's circumstances is that the Broncos don't know who they are playing. It could be the Bengals, Colts or Ravens depending on how the AFC Wild Card Round plays out. If the Bengals defeat the Texans, they will come to Denver next Saturday because they are the lowest ranked playoff team in the conference. If not, the Broncos will play the winner of the Colts vs. Ravens game.

The team can't delve too much into the game-planning aspect until the opponent is set, so Fox said it will cover "a little of everything" in practice this week.

"We'll hit some things that maybe we haven't hit in a while, situationally," Fox added. "Obviously, keep our crispness in all three phases, just stay practicing and stay on top of what we're doing - try to get better."

During Denver's regular season, the players had off their entire bye weekend. One change that Fox has made for the playoff bye is that the team will meet on Saturday at 10 a.m. for a lifting session.

Fox, who won his 100th game on Sunday, said one purpose of the workout was "to make sure they stay here in town."

But the coach doesn't expect that to be an issue.

"These guys are tough -- mentally tough," Fox said. "They understand what's at stake now."


Denver's No. 1 seed is a result of hard work and success in 2012.

On Monday, Fox talked about another result that can arise from a regular season full of achievements. Both the offensive and defensive coordinators for Denver - Mike McCoy and Jack Del Rio - could see opportunities for head coaching jobs elsewhere around the league.

Several teams let go of their coaches on Monday, so the hiring processes for those clubs will start now.

Fox said he expects other playoff teams to be dealing with similar situations, as those teams' coordinators have also had success and could also be getting looks for head coaching positions.

He is confident his staff has their priorities in line.

"With team success, you get recognition," Fox said. "Those guys are all professionals. They understand the focus it's going to take for us to get where we want. They've got a lot of investment in it, so I don't anticipate that being a problem for us or really anybody else."

Fox declined to comment on what type of interaction McCoy and Del Rio have already had with other teams around the NFL "out of respect for the whole process."


Heading into January, a steady and well-rounded rushing attack is invaluable.

On Sunday, running backs Jacob Hester and Lance Ball stepped up and showed they can help the Broncos establish just that.

Ball gained a game-high and personal season-high 66 rushing yards on 15 carries. He also converted on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter.

The fourth-year back is a proven asset for the offense. He has displayed savvy blocking abilities in protecting quarterback Peyton Manning and is a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield.

He has also played in 53 percent of the team's special teams plays in 2012.

"Lance has been a really productive guy in his role in both seasons I've been here," Fox said. "Everybody has a role, and you need guys in every single role. Lance was a four-phase starter in the kicking game and has been there when we needed him. We called his number yesterday and he has come through. He has done a lot, going back to last year's game against New England here. That's what the expectation is of any of the 46 guys that you bring up on gameday. He has done a great job."

Hester, meanwhile, amassed a career-high 55 rushing yards on seven carries - a mark of nearly eight yards per attempt. He displayed agility and power, particularly on an 18-yard in the fourth quarter that punished multiple Kansas City defenders.

Hester's running style brings a unique element to Denver's rushing attack, making him an important commodity moving forward.

"He is a bright young man, a tough, a hard runner with low pad level," Fox said. "He brings something that, since we lost (running back) Willis (McGahee), maybe we didn't have so much."

Being a late season pickup - the Broncos added him to the roster in Week 13 - he began his stint in Denver as a gameday scratch, but has been active the last three games.

In Weeks 15 and 16 - his first two games active - he scored 1-yard rushing touchdowns.

"Jacob is a guy that we picked up later in the season that has worked very hard to learn our system," Fox said. "I think he has made good progress."

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