To say the Denver Broncos wanted this playoff bye would be an understatement.
The Denver Broncos needed this playoff bye like hamstrings need stretching, bruised ankles need rehab, and tired football players need rest.
The Broncos had 20 names on their injury report a week ago, ranging from QB Peyton Manning (thigh, probable) to LB Brandon Marshall (foot, out), and in serendipitous fashion, many of the injuries were of the type where a week of rest could do a lot of good. The Broncos earned just that with a win on Sunday; they'll rest and relax and await their potential playoff opponent thanks to the AFC's 2nd seed.
Here is a list of nine significant players who look to benefit from the week of rest. Yes, nine. This development is that good.
Tight end Julius Thomas (ankle)
I pondered on the Internet a few weeks ago whether the Broncos' recent passing struggles weren't in large part attributable to the ankle injury suffered by Julius Thomas. Manning benefited from 12 touchdowns from Thomas (many after the catch) in the first nine weeks of the season alone, and Thomas admitted he hasn't been 100% in some time.
"I knew it was going to be one of those things where you're going to have to fight through it," Thomas said Monday. "Talking to the doctor about it, it's something that's going to linger a little bit."
"I definitely needed this bye," said Thomas.
Linebacker Brandon Marshall (foot)
The Denver Broncos defense looked like a shell of its former self against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, the first week Marshall missed. Marshall was having a Pro Bowl-type year in replacing Danny Trevathan at weakside linebacker, a remarkable revelation in that he was on Denver's practice squad nearly all of last season.
He's aiming to be back for the playoffs, he tells us.
@MileHighReport Yep.. that’s the goal— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshh54) December 29, 2014
Safety T.J. Ward (neck)
T.J. Ward was coming along very nicely near the end of the year, and his neck injury (combined with Marshall's absence) left the Broncos without a sure-fire gap-filling tackler.
Denver's defense is about to get a shot in the arm, because Ward is expected back too.
"I'm pretty sure if T.J. or B-Marsh, if they had to play this past week in this past game, they probably would have," said Terrance Knighton," but we were able to go out there and execute without them and it'll be a lot better to have them back."
"They will be back. Not a 'better chance.' It's the playoffs," said cornerback
Harris has every reason to talk - he told Sports Illustrated he's been playing through pain in his surgically-repaired knee all season.
Quarterback Peyton Manning (thigh)
Another possible reason the Broncos' pass offense has been struggling is the lingering thigh injury suffered by Peyton Manning. While Manning has denied the injury has affected his ability, a week off will certainly do the old young man good.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (ankle/hand)
A lot of fans speculated that Demaryius Thomas was dealing withe some sort of finger injury during Denver's Week 17 contest. Indeed, CBS came back and reported that Thomas had taped some of his fingers together, and he had a very un-Demaryius-like drop in the end zone here that left Broncos Country flabbergasted.
Thomas got an X-Ray on one of his fingers, according to ESPN, which returned negative. Anyone who's ever had a bad finger jam knows a week off will do a lot of good. Hope Thomas just goes through warm-ups and lets his hands fully heal.
Guard Orlando Franklin (concussion)
It's pretty simple: Franklin suffered a concussion in Week 17. While every concussion is different, they usually mean a week away from the football field on Sunday. Having a week off means there's a greater chance Franklin will be cleared to play in the Divisional Round.
Tackle Ryan Clady (thigh)
Get better so you can play better, Clady. You haven't looked like your All Pro self the last few weeks, let alone this season. The time is now.
Safety David Bruton (concussion/neck)
I'm a little less optimistic David Bruton would be ready in two weeks - that was a nasty (cheap, illegal, dirty) hit from the Raiders that sent him to the Emergency Room and left him with both a concussion and a neck sprain. But if, somehow, Bruton is cleared to play for the Broncos' playoff opener, it'll surely be thanks to the week off.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (hip)
Sanders was questionable in Week 17 with the hip injury, so while he was able to play through it (and play well), there's likely another tenth of a gear he can find with a week of rest.
Broncos practice schedule
The Broncos will practice Tuesday and Wednesday this week before taking the rest of the week off. They'll return for meetings and conditioning Sunday, at which point they'll know who who they are playing in the playoffs and can prepare for a regular full week of practice.
Manning, D. Thomas, Sanders, Wes Welker, Marshall, Franklin, and Bruton were among the players who rested Tuesday, according to reports.