The only thing Andy Dalton knows for sure is he's going to shave this week. He hasn't since he broke his thumb nine days ago and looking like an Apollo astronaut at splashdown, he says it's time.
"It's not looking very good right now. It's a little patchy," Dalton said during Tuesday's extra day of prep. "But as soon as I can grow a beard, as soon as I can get these little spots taken care of, I'll have one. Maybe by the time I'm 35 I'll be able to get a beard."
As for that fracture in his throwing thumb, it looks like it's going to be a close shave if and when he can return. He says his thumb goes through bone stimulation several times a day. But he has no idea when the cast can come off. He's gone from black to white and he's going to go back to black because it looks better.
"It's a waiting game," Dalton said.
So is the big Ryan Fitzpatrick-like beard.
"The big red beard would be sweet," he said.
Dalton thought his backup, AJ McCarron, played like a graybeard in winning his first NFL start Sunday in San Francisco.
"He took care of the ball, hit a couple of shot plays on throws down the field," he said. "He ran the offense well."
He agreed that the 3rd-and-1 throw from the San Fran 8 to wide receiver Marvin Jones open in a hole in the zone was a huge play in a game the Bengals led, 7-0.
"Most of the time when we run that play, we throw it at the back to the corner route," Dalton said. "But he felt the corner play off . . . AJ did a great job of reading it and getting it down to Marvin."
Dalton's advice has been pretty simple:
"Trust what you see. And he's preparing his butt off. He's up here all the time; he's making sure he knows everything. But at the end of the day, just go out and play. He's a talented guy who has talent around him, and so just trust the guys around you, too."
QB QUANDRY: For the fifth time in the last games, the Bengals are getting a team that is unsure at quarterback. Back on Nov. 5 they got Johnny Manziel when Josh McCown couldn't come off the injured list late that week. On Nov. 16 they knocked the Texans' Brian Hoyer out of the game and faced T.J. Yates for about the last 20 minutes. On Nov. 29 they went against the Rams' Nick Foles when Case Keenum didn't come out of concussion protocol late in the week. Starting the week of Dec. 6 the Browns switched off Manziel and went with Austin Davis.
And this week Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak says he's "starting from scratch,' in his quarterback situation with Peyton Manning perhaps returning to the practice field after Brock Osweiler struggled in the second half last Sunday against Pittsburgh.
The conclusion for cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is to get ready for both.
"You have to look at both guys because there's talk they really don't know who is the main guy. So you have to look at it both ways. You have to know both Osweiler and Petyon," Kirkpatrick said. "When you go so hard practicing and studying one guy and what he likes to do and what are his tendencies that he gives off and he's not going to be playing, that makes it harder because you have to do extra study. So do the extra things to pretty much prepare.
"It's hard because we have our set schedule. You can only study so much. This is a week where you have to minimize your time and split it up. Take maybe an hour on this guy and an hour on that guy. Where you would take two hours on one guy."
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers in week 15 of the regular season.