Andy Dalton's first play-off win would be getting a bye to give his broken right thumb an extra week to get better.
"I would love to win these next three and get a bye and as much time as we can get where I can heal up," Dalton said after Thursday's practice.
That would indicate Dalton won't play in the last three regular-season games, a stretch beginning Sunday (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in San Francisco, scene of AJ McCarron's first NFL start. So there's nothing new on the time frame front. Week to week. It's believed the cast is going to come off a couple of times a week for bone stimulation, but there's no word how long a rehab would be after the cast comes off for good. There are also weekly trips to the hand specialist. But he admits the word that there is no surgery needed has kept hope alive.
"I'm doing whatever the trainers are going to tell me to do throughout this process," Dalton said. "It's something that's getting checked every week. When I'm able to play, I'll play.
"The timing isn't what I wanted it to be, or what anybody wanted it to be. But to hear the good news it could be week to week, it's one of those things, regardless of the situation it is what it is. So you can either be negative about it or be positive about it and I'm choosing to be positive."
So he's preparing like he's playing, attending every meeting and helping McCarron during every practice snap. When there's a break he rides the bike and works on his cardio. For a guy who has never been a No. 2 quarterback and hasn't missed a game in eight years since his sophomore season at TCU, this is all very weird. The closest Dalton came was his red-shirt freshman year as the emergency third quarterback.
"I've never run the scout team," Dalton said. "It's different for sure. I'm taking on a new role.
"I'm just trying to help him out any way I can. When things happen in practice, whether they be good or bad, just pull from that. Let him know, 'Feel how that corner is playing. Either do that again, or maybe get off that one and look at the rest of the field.' It's been good."
Not only is McCarron going to be finding his way around an NFL start, Dalton has also has to get used to helping on the sidelines.
"This my first experience with it this past week," Dalton said. "Seeing what they're playing to certain looks. Let him know the coverage we're getting to different things. Try to help out anyway I can."
Cincinnati Bengals host practice at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 12/17/2015
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson reiterated he's not scaling back the playbook for McCarron and Dalton sees why.
"He's done well. He's spent a lot of time studying and making sure he's on top of the game plan. He's gone a lot of good things. I'm just trying to help him as much as I can. He'll be all right," Dalton said. "This is the second year in this offense. He may not have been practicing with the offense for every week, but he was still hearing the same terminology. He's put in a lot of time."
Dalton could be devastated. Cut down leading the NFL in passing before securing the third most votes in the fan's Pro Bowl balloting as an MVP candidate. But Dalton's even-keel personality never buffets.
"I'm doing all right," Dalton said. "Obviously the timing isn't what I would want it to be. It's in God's control. It's not my timing, its God's timing. I'm trusting in that."