Good Friday morning to you, wherever you're reading this.
Hopefully, unless you're on a beach in Florida or at a cafe in Southern California, you're inside as you dial up this latest entry of the Morning Stripes. Much like it is all over the eastern half of the United States, it is flat-out cold on this Friday in Cincinnati. Seven degrees? Really? Minus-8 on Monday? Really?
As we wrote on the Bengals blog Thursday, temperatures like that and the frozen precipitation that can come with it are welcomed by the Cincinnati Bengals. Apparently the San Diego Chargers might not be too upset about its arrival, either. San Diego is 2-0 in games with kickoff temperatures at 35 or below this season.
The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures to hover in the low 30s at kickoff of Sunday's first-round playoff game between the teams, and then start plummeting throughout the afternoon. Snow and freezing rain are options all day.
One Bengals player who won't be worried about the weather Sunday is linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He has already had a laudable second year in the NFL, capturing the league's tackles lead and being named to his first Pro Bowl. The honors haven't stopped there, either. In a close race, he was voted team MVP by a group of Cincinnati team beat reporters. The Pro Football Writers Association's Cincinnati chapter presented him with an award inside the locker room Thursday. Defensive tackle Domata Peko was named the team's "Good Guy."
The "Good Guy" award goes to the player who media deem the easiest to work with, and the player who goes the furthest out of his way to help reporters do their jobs. One example of that actually came during the trophy presentation at his locker. As Peko thanked reporters, he held up his trophy and said, "Hey, would you like a few pictures with me and the award?" Why not, Domata? That's called making life easier on the easy-to-hate media. Media folks respect that.
Burfict's honor probably wasn't much of a surprise, but it came in a close race. He beat quarterback Andy Dalton by just two points.
Both Burfict and Peko headlined the ballots of the ESPN.com reporter who covers the team. He was torn for a while between Burfict and Dalton, but gave the edge to Burfict in the end because the defense has been the better overall all season. Time and again, Burfict and his defensive cohorts have saved the offense from turnovers that could have led to something more serious.
Here are the rest of this Friday's Morning Stripes, headlined by Burfict's honor:
Here's a look at the PFWA awards breakdown posted to Fox Sports Ohio. Both Burfict and Dalton received three first-place votes.
Speaking of Burfict, here's a look at how he could be a key piece to a possible Bengals win Sunday. His matchup with Chargers running back Danny Woodhead might be the biggest of the game, according to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson. Not only did Burfict adequately silence Woodhead in the pass-catching game in the teams' meeting on Dec. 1, he did it while playing through an ankle injury.
Get used to seeing the following in the next few weeks. According to media reports, including this one from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Vikings are interested in talking to both Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for their head-coaching vacancy. Minnesota wants a coach with "star power," Rapoport said. He thinks that gives Gruden, the brother of former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, an edge.
We close with two items from the Cincinnati Enquirer regarding the possibility that Sunday's game could be blacked out. The likelihood of that happening appears to be diminishing, but it's still a viable option. An Enquirer editorial argues that a possible blackout shouldn't detract from the Bengals' division championship season. If a blackout does occur, "So what?" columnist Paul Daugherty writes.