The National Football League and its fans often get a bad reputation. Excessive drinking, cursing and, fighting is common at just about every stadium in the league. Each week, YouTube videos pour in after the weekend's games with highlights on the field, as well as in the parking lot between dueling fans.

A new trend has emerged this season, though: the act of giving to your opponents' charity has become the new way of saying thank you among fans. For all of the reasons that the NFL finds themselves in the public spotlight, they should be thankful for their fans due to the positive publicity this new trend has received.

It started with Andy Dalton

In the last week of the regular season, Andy Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals in an otherwise meaningless game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals were eliminated from playoff contention and most wouldn't blame them for just getting through the game and focusing on next year.

However, the game wasn't meaningless to Baltimore. Needing a win to get into the playoffs, the team led late in the game. That was until Dalton made several heroic plays and lifted his team to an improbable comeback victory. The win meant that the Buffalo Bills, not Baltimore, would get the final remaining playoff spot. Thankful Bills fans, who hadn't seen their team in the playoffs in nearly two decades, immediately flooded Dalton's personal charity with donations.

The final tally saw over $300,000 donated to Dalton's charity.

The trend continued into the playoffs

Fans in Minnesota took note when they hosted the New Orleans Saints a few weeks later.

After a thrilling win with a final second touchdown pass, there was pandemonium on the field. When the dust was settled, it was determined by NFL rule that the extra point, though meaningless, needed to be played. The Saints had already left the field but a number of them eventually came back to lineup for the play. It was gut-wrenching for Saints players, none more than punter Thomas Morstead.

The punter was injured earlier in the game and had cracked ribs. It still did not keep him from playing until the final whistle.

Vikings fans appreciated his dedication and toughness and they too flooded Morstead's charity with donations. Another six figure total and another great piece of positive publicity for the league.

The trend might be here to stay

The NFL has a problem with staying out of trouble.

Stars often get arrested or charged with various criminal offenses that give the league a black eye. The handling of some of the more high-profile incidents has also led to increased scrutiny and criticism of the league.

A trend like this is exactly something the NFL needs to help clean up that public image. They should be going out of their way to highlight and commend these fan bases who, instead of resorting to the nastiness that NFL fans are usually known for, have created one of the most positive stories to come out of the league in years.