For players on 30 of the NFL's 32 teams, this week can be the hardest to get through.
With their teams done for the season and unable to compete for the Super Bowl, they all have to make a decision that, for some, can be one of the more difficult they will make in their careers. They have to decide whether to attend events leading up to the championship game (if invited), to watch at home, or to tune out the festivities of the week altogether.
Some players are so disappointed when their teams come up short of the Super Bowl that they can't watch the pageantry that goes along with the game. Many more will watch it, whether up close at the event or from the comforts of their own homes.
For the Cincinnati Bengals who will be tuning into Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday night, there may be some mixed emotions as far as which team they'll support. That's because a pair of their former teammates will be pitted against one another when the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos meet at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Broncos receiver Andre Caldwell spent four seasons with the Bengals after being picked by the team in the third round of the 2008 draft. Before his departure following the 2011 season, Caldwell had been one of Cincinnati's third- and fourth-receiving options behind the likes of Chad Johnson, Terrell Owens and A.J. Green.
Selected by the Bengals in the last round of the 2009 draft, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald spent two seasons in Cincinnati's locker room before getting dealt to Seattle in 2011 for cornerback Kelly Jennings. At the time, cornerback depth was more important, and Jennings stood a better chance of contributing more -- which he did -- than McDonald. Besides, there were some other guys named Geno Atkins and Domata Peko hogging all the action at defensive tackle.
This season, McDonald proved to be a big part of the Seahawks' defensive success, coming away with 5.5 sacks in the regular season.
Both were respected by their peers when they played for the Bengals. Many of their former teammates still call Paul Brown Stadium home. As Caldwell and McDonald prepare to square off on the biggest stage of their careers, we take a look at them in this installment of the Morning Stripes:
We'll start with McDonald, the 290-pound interior lineman who weighed more than that while trying to crack the Bengals' starting rotation. In this story from Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, filed from the Super Bowl, McDonald points out how getting his start with the Bengals helped him reach this week's big stage. By the way, check out the team site's nifty web page redesign.
Staying with Bengals.com, here's a shorter item on McDonald and Caldwell. According to his current Denver teammate, Wes Welker, Caldwell is the "best fourth receiver in the NFL."