The Denver Broncos may be wishing that they were competing for the AFC Championship this Sunday, but that was simply not to be, and the old saying that "time spent wishing is time wasted" holds true.
Instead, Denver should be crafting their free-agent wish list, because unlike the game this weekend, there is actually something the front office can do about these wishes.
In light of the success the Broncos had, some might think that the need for free agents is lessened, but that is far from the truth. In fact, it is up to the Broncos' brass to harness that excitement and use it to sway the favor of some players that might not normally have considered Denver as a "win-now" opportunity.
The term "win now" may not apply to the Super Bowl just yet, but there is no reason to think that Denver cannot be competitive again in the AFC West next year.
Here are the players that Denver needs to look at adding (or keeping) in order to push their playoff streak to TWO.
Jason Campbell was dealt a very unfortunate blow when the Raiders decided to invest heavily in Carson Palmer. Still, all it may have done was hasten the inevitable conclusion that Campbell would spend the second half his career as a backup.
Face it, the guy is not spectacular, but if he were, then he wouldn't be hitting the market this year and the Raiders wouldn't have looked elsewhere for a QB.
Isn't a safe and steady veteran who is good in a locker room and won't cause problems what you want in a backup?
If Campbell isn't given a chance to start somewhere (which he might), then he should be at the top of the Broncos' list considering the shallow QB depth early in this year's draft.
Broncos fans would welcome Hillis home with open arms, considering most have lamented the fact that he was ever traded.
Imagine a triple option where all three ball carriers are as potentially devastating as Hills at FB, McGahee at RB and Tebow at QB.
Many teams might be scared by what is going on in Peyton's head, but assuming he still has all his wits about him, he should come back to Denver and see how easy life can be running the ball in this offense.
The Broncos have said that they are interested in bringing back receiver Eddie Royal, but for probably the same price or cheaper they can bring in some fresh blood and let Eddie try and resurrect his career elsewhere.
Harry Douglas has always been behind the likes of Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and now Julio Jones, but he still manages almost 13 to 15 yards per catch in his NFL career. No matter where Douglas goes, he will likely see more targets than he is seeing in Atlanta, and that could be true in Denver as well.
If they can sell Douglas on the idea of having Tebow as his quarterback, he could be a nice secret weapon for the Denver offense.
The times are changing in Minnesota, and Kyle Rudolph is the TE of the future for the Vikings. Anyone who doesn't believe that doesn't live in Denver, because Broncos fans saw firsthand the kind of catches he is capable of.
Shiancoe is certainly nearing the end of his career, but he has proven that he can block and is a sure-handed receiver.
Denver is nowhere near ready to give up on the Julius Thomas and Virgil Green experiment, but perhaps a more savvy veteran like Shiancoe can help hasten their growth while still being effective.
This is simply an attempt to add depth to an interior offensive line that was on the verge of being totally exposed for a lack of it late in the season.
Russ Hochstein is not getting any younger and chances are that he may not make the cut next year as Denver continues to go younger and faster.
Legursky has done an excellent job filling in on the Steelers' oft-injured offensive line, especially at center, which is a valuable skill for a reserve interior lineman.
Chances are that he may not want to leave Pittsburgh to still be a backup somewhere, but who knows? Maybe he enjoyed his time in Denver...despite the outcome of the game.
The names that I would like to put here are Paul Soliai of Miami and Calais Campbell of Arizona, but the likely scenario is that both players will be franchised by their current teams if they cannot reach a deal.
Okoye is a decent backup plan for those two not being available and comes with the right kind of experience on defense in Chicago.
He has a good mix of athleticism and size and can help the inside of the Broncos' defensive line, which still needs it.
Those of you who haven't heard of Larry Grant, it's OK. He has been playing behind arguably one of the best linebackers in the game in Patrick Willis and only got a chance to shine after Willis was sidelined the final weeks of the regular season.
Joe Mays has tried hard and delivered a few good shots, but he has not been a dominant enough presence in the middle to solidify Denver's improving defense.
Larry Grant has shown that he can do that and has earned the chance to be pursued actively in the free-agent market. Denver needs to pay just enough for San Francisco not to want to match but also not bet the farm on what still amounts to a slight risk on a relative unknown.
Denver needs to be careful and not get into a habit of signing safeties right before they retire, but with the success of players like John Lynch and Brian Dawkins, it is hard not to want to do it one more time with Deon Grant.
The Broncos have already made their bed with Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter for the foreseeable future considering their draft investment, but bringing in a player like Grant can help continue the growth that having a player like Brian Dawkins allowed them to have.
Moore clearly needs it more than Carter, but remember that early in the season, Moore was an exciting pick who was showing signs of greatness before the wheels fell off.
Grant might be poised to add a Super Bowl ring to his cabinet this year, and that is some great experience to add to this team in the year following their playoff run.
There should be no explanation necessary here. Prater is becoming an integral part to the success of this team, just as Jason Elam was during his heyday in Denver.
Prater's big leg and accuracy in clutch situations will make him a hot commodity, but the Broncos and Prater are both motivated to make this happen. Fans should expect nothing less than to see No. 5 challenging the NFL record for longest field goal someday in a Broncos uniform.
DL Brodrick Bunkley - Did a good job of trying to hold together the middle of the defensive line and might benefit from adding some talented pieces around him.
DL Marcus Thomas - Familiar with the system and the locker room, and likely not a better option out on the market for the price they will be able to bring Thomas back at.
LB Wesley Woodyard - He is Mario Haggan, except younger and faster, thus making him a better decision to keep as a utility linebacker than Haggan at this point.
WR Matthew Willis - There still appears to be some un-tapped talent there waiting to come out, and perhaps it still might become evident in Denver. For the right price, he is worth keeping, provided that the Broncos don't find names they like late in the draft at WR.