Way back on Christmas Eve, some three days ago, we filed an edition of the Morning Stripes that was headlined "Bengals put trust in Dalton."
Well, wouldn't you know it, three days later, they still trust their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Don't expect that fact to change anytime soon. If you're among those out there who believe the Bengals need to draft a new quarterback in the offseason, or who believe they need to bring in a veteran during free agency to show Dalton the ropes and to light a fire underneath him, I wouldn't hold my breath. A preseason or even in-season contract extension for Dalton next year is a more plausible action for the Bengals to take.
To say the Bengals like Dalton is an understatement. They're in love with, infatuated with and completely obsessed with their third-year quarterback who likely will set a pair of franchise passing records later this weekend.
If you need an illustration for how much the Bengals are putting their faith in Dalton and believe he will lead them not only to one postseason win this year, but to multiple, consider offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's comments to reporters inside the team's locker room Thursday afternoon.
"He's won 30 [bleeping] games, man. How many does he got to win?" Gruden said. "He's beaten [Tom] Brady. He's beaten [Aaron] Rodgers. He's beaten [Ben] Roethlisberger. He's done it all."
Actually, he's won 29. A win against Baltimore in Sunday's regular-season finale would give him 30. With a win, he'll have 11 this year alone. Only four other teams in franchise history have had 11 or more regular season wins.
Like Gruden later added, though, the ultimate judgment on whether Dalton should be trusted by the broader public hinges on what he does once the Bengals enter the postseason. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season.
On this day of continued trust in Dalton, we begin this Friday's Morning Stripes with a couple of links looking at the faith Cincinnati has in its young signal-caller:
USA Today's Tom Pelissero writes about how Gruden simply isn't worried about Dalton. He has complete faith in him.
Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com has his own brief take on Gruden's comments, writing here about the support Dalton is getting inside Paul Brown Stadium. Outside it has been a different matter. Streaky, inconsistent play has mostly waned fan faith. Some Bengals supporters are still reserving final judgment on Dalton until the playoffs. If he's able to win a playoff game, then many certainly will become more ardent Dalton loyalists than they perhaps have ever been.
With about 10,000-15,000 tickets remaining to the Bengals' first home playoff game, Cincinnati's ticket office has a large task looming before it. Can the group avoid a local blackout -- yes those exist in the playoffs -- and sell each of those tickets before either next weekend or the weekend after? (Cincinnati won't know exactly when it will play until after this Sunday's games all end. A Bengals' win and Patriots' loss could still give Cincinnati the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.) Here's the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy and Paul Dehner Jr. on the playoff ticket situation.
Finally, we'll close this batch of links on a humorous note. The laughs that Kevin Huber and his family have provided since the punter's season-ending injury two weeks ago after Terence Garvin's devastating hit at Pittsburgh, have put a positive spin on the situation than what was previously anticipated. From NESN.com and via Twitter, here's a look Huber's Christmas presents from earlier this week: a James Harrison-esque Bengals' fan mask and a Steelers' blender.
Don't forget, we'll have a Twitter mailbag later Friday. Tweet me any questions you have at @ColeyHarvey.