So far this year, the Denver Broncos have been at their best when the lights are shining brightest. They are 4-0 in prime time games, all victories over playoff-bound teams. The lights are about to get very bright as the Broncos themselves head to the playoffs, and defensive end Malik Jackson says that is just where they want to be.

“We love playing in the national spotlight,” Jackson told Sports Stampede on Mile High Sports AM 1340 this week. “As a player, when everybody’s watching, you get that national exposure – you like those things. It means a little more.”

Although they won’t be playing in prime time Sunday, the Broncos will be mostly in the national spotlight in the afternoon game against the San Diego Chargers. Unless you live in Northern California, the St. Louis area or Eugene, Ore. you’ll be watching the Broncos and Chargers as your CBS afternoon tilt.

A win on Sunday will secure a first round bye for the Broncos, and the outcome of the Baltimore-Cincinnati game will be decided before Denver and San Diego kickoff. Denver will be playing for that first round bye knowing that the Bengals, whom Denver defeated Monday, will be watching.

Denver needs to also hold serve in the AFC West. A loss would not only give the Bengals the bye, coupled with a Kansas City win over Oakland, it would give the Chiefs the division.

“We would love a first round bye,” Jackson said. He knows that the team could use that extra time off to get healthy. Denver had a short week following the Monday night win over the Bengals, so any added time to heal would be a real blessing heading into the playoffs. Still, he said the short week hasn’t fazed the team.

Head coach Gary Kubiak has been good, Jackson says, about giving them the rest they need on the short week to get ready to face a San Diego team the Broncos know very well. Denver beat the Chargers just four weeks ago.

But the San Diego win was also the start of a trend. Denver jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, but did not score again, eventually winning 17-3. In the three games that followed, Denver played incomplete games, giving up halftime leads against Oakland and Pittsburgh and having to storm back from down by double-digits at halftime at home against Cincinnati.

When asked about the adjustments Denver made at the half against the Bengals, Jackson answered honestly. “There were no adjustments,” he said. “We just looked at each other and said ‘this is enough.'” With the spotlight of the national audience on them, Denver pulled out a gritty 20-17 overtime victory.

As the regular season wraps up and turns to the playoffs, Jackson makes it sound as if the second half against Cincinnati was a turning point and that the team is ready for more and more pressure as the stakes mount week-by-week.

That has to be welcome news for Broncos fans, who are ready to see their team put together a complete game and play with confidence for four quarters, especially as the lights shine brighter.

Listen to the full conversation with Jackson in the podcast below…

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