The Bengals have gotten relatively good news regarding QB Andy Dalton’s fractured right thumb: it won’t require surgery, so he’s not automatically out for the season. But Cincinnati won’t know when he’ll be ready until he is.

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“That’s about as good an outcome right now we could expect,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He won’t play this week and it will be up to Andy and the doctors each and every week as we do it.”

Dalton confirmed he hurt himself on the last play of Cincinnati’s opening drive, and it appears he struck his throwing hand on Stephon Tuitt’s knee while trying to make a tackle after a terrible INT.

Dalton said he didn’t realize he had hurt himself until he got back to the sideline and realized he couldn’t grip a football. It’s his strength and pain levels that will determine when Dalton can play again, and the Bengals are hoping he’s good to go for the start of the playoffs. Of course, there’s always the chance that Dalton could start before he’s entirely healed, and at something less than full effectiveness. That’s the risk.

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In the meantime, the Bengals will hand the reins to A.J. McCarron, and no one really knows what to expect. McCarron has played in a couple blowouts this year, and threw two TDs and two picks in relief of Dalton yesterday, but he’s never gotten an NFL start and he’s never practiced with Cincinnati’s first-team offense. Though the Bengals might feel like this year’s version of last year’s Cardinals—a promising season torpedoed by injury to a revelatory quarterback—the Cincinnati’s run game is better, and two of its final three games come against four-win teams.

I really thought this was finally going to be the year the Bengals didn’t poop the bed in the playoffs. Maybe it still will be! Cincinnati currently sits in position for the second AFC bye, but have a huge game against Denver coming up in two weeks—one that could determine whether the team gets one more valuable week for Dalton to recover.