ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - The Broncos' playoff bye gives players an extra week to rest their bodies and to mentally prepare for their Divisional Round game.
On Saturday and Sunday, while Denver's potential opponents are doing neither of those things, the Broncos will be doing both.
"I'll be sitting there, just watching all the games," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "I'll have my notebook and pen, taking notes."
Broncos players said Wednesday they will be watching the playoff games this weekend, but not with the mindset of a fan. They will be using their iPads to study material that coaches have already given them as they watch the other teams play.
"I think in a lot of those games, they'll do a lot of the same stuff they do this week, next week," wideout Demaryius Thomas said. "It's just something we can prepare for early."
For some players, the process of studying and preparing has already begun.
"It's already been loaded on the iPads, on the TVs here," safety David Bruton said. "Some guys are probably in the meeting room right now watching it. We know how important this is and everybody's willing to do more to make sure our goal is going to happen."
Quarterback Peyton Manning has played in 19 playoff games and won a Super Bowl. He knows that the extra week of practice can be as productive as the team makes it.
"We're working on specific things out here, 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," Manning said. "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."
While all players and coaches view the playoff bye as an advantage, recent history hasn't always played out that way. A 1- or 2-seed has won the Super Bowl in only two of the previous seven seasons. Head Coach John Fox has made sure his players are aware of that trend to avoid risking any loss of focus, motivation or rhythm.
"I think Coach Fox does a good job staying on top of that, telling us what our goal is, what we're working for," Thomas said. "We don't want a bye week to bother that. He is saying there are a lot of teams that come off the bye week and don't play so well. Having him staying on us, it really helps."
The Broncos could play the Bengals, Colts or Ravens, depending on how the Wild Card Round unfolds. If the Bengals defeat the Texans, they will come to Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the Divisional Round game on Sat., Jan. 12th. If Cincinnati loses, the winner of the Colts vs. Ravens game would be Denver's opponent.
Not knowing who they'll play until next week doesn't hurt Denver, but it affects the way it will use its time.
The players will be more focused on improving their own game before shifting gears and dissecting the opponent next week.
"As a player, look in the mirror and just try to get better," Dumervil said. "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."