Denver head coach John Fox will be looking to keep his team improving in their bye week.
Even though Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos go into their bye week ranked in first—by virtue of their win against San Diego—they have much to improve on if they want to not only make the playoffs but win the Super Bowl.
Even though they have won two out of their past three games, the Broncos have problems that need to be fixed,and fixed fast, because they have big games coming up in a very crowded division.
The wins? Against Pittsburgh—who just isn't that good this year—Oakland and San Diego. Maybe Manning knew what he was getting into when he decided not to go to San Francisco and risk facing the relentless defenses of Seattle and Arizona.
With all that in mind, let's take a look at what needs to be fixed and how they can get it done.
With starter Willis McGahee getting up there in age, second-string Ronnie Hillman will look to slice into his touches.
While the passing attack under Peyton Manning has flourished, the rushing game has not.
The Denver Broncos rank a gruesome 29th in rushing offense, averaging 3.6 yards per attempt.
The main culprit has been Willis McGahee, who has failed to eclipse four yards per attempt in four of the first six games.
His main backup, Ronnie Hillman, isn't having much success either, running for a paltry 2.9 yards per attempt.
Even though Manning may not need a lethal run game to be effective, he does need something resembling a threat that can keep defenses on their heels.
Audibles are especially crucial because Manning likes to check to and from runs when it's 3rd-and-short.
McGahee, like Peyton's old running back Joseph Addai, may not have the most talent, but he will see holes as big as the parted Red Sea in the upcoming games against New Orleans, Cincinnati and Carolina.
Whether he capitalizes remains to be seen.
Surprisingly, there have been some slow starts by Peyton Manning this year, and he will look to correct that.
In their games against the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, the Broncos started slow and were unable to recover except for the dramatic Charger comeback.
Granted, they did come back in the three losses to make the game more respectable.
However, that is to the testament of Peyton's greatness, which should not be relied on every game.
With the neck surgery, Peyton doesn't have the same zip on his throws, although that hasn't affected his overall numbers and effectiveness.
There's no understanding the slow start, as the Broncos aren't exactly the worst team, as evidenced by their consistent late-game heroics. It might just be mental, and if so, that is a very fixable problem.
The rest of the schedule would appear friendly, so it is imperative for the Broncos to establish themselves early in games.
The less of this, the better for the Denver Broncos.
The 2012 Denver Broncos are currently sixth in the AFC with 352 penalty yards.
The 2009 Indianapolis Colts were 15th in the AFC in penalty yards.
The year before that, the 2008 Indianapolis Colts were 12th in penalty yards.
The two latter statistics are not surprising with Peyton Manning leading an offense.
But, the former one where the Broncos are up with the leaders in the AFC—although six out of sixteen isn't bad, it is still in the upper half—is a number that should come down if and when Peyton becomes more acclimated to the offensive schemes.
And that's precisely what the bye week is for, fixing flawed offensive tendencies and refining schemes.
A Peyton-led offense will probably regress back to the lower rungs of penalty yards, but it is still a number worth monitoring coming into Week 8.
The more sacks the better for the Denver defense.
Last year, the San Francisco 49ers made the NFC championship game behind an offense and defense that combined for a plus-28 takeaway distribution.
Even the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants were a plus-11.
This year's Denver Broncos team is a very mediocre minus-three in that category.
Some of that is due to regress because of the fact they have yet to recover the nine fumbles they've lost.
The defense, with speed demons Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil flying off the edges, has accrued 18 sacks (tied for third in the AFC) and forced eight fumbles (also tied for third in the AFC).
Sooner or later, that turnover differential will trend toward the positive, and the bye week will help John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio amp that scheme up even more.
The offensive line will try to keep improving their play to keep Peyton Manning on the field.
When your best player is coming off career-threatening neck surgery, it would be in your best interest to keep him healthy for a full 16-game season.
So far, so good, for the Denver Broncos.
Part of that ranking has to do with the slow run game that the Broncos has exhibited, so far.
Their adjusted sack rate is also slightly above league average at 7.2 percent—league average is 6.5 percent, good for 12th best in the league.
This isn't so much a problem as it is an ongoing project that will need to be monitored. Remember, Manning was unable to beat teams in the playoffs with ferocious pass rushes from the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.
The AFC isn't very good this year, but in order for the Broncos to fulfill their Manning-led expectations, he will have to remain on the field, with a better run game and pass protection.