In April, the Cincinnati Bengals extended Coach Marvin Lewis' contract through the 2016 season as they didn't want him in a lame-duck situation this year. That marked the eighth time Lewis either signed a new contract or extension of a current deal since being hired in 2003. Lewis has a very solid 100-90-2 record in regular-season games with Cincinnati. The team has reached double-digit in wins each of the last three seasons, and the Bengals' 31 total victories are tied for fifth in the NFL over that span.
But Cincinnati is 0-6 in the playoffs under Lewis -- no team has gone longer without a postseason win than the Bengals. And it's not just that they have lost in the wild-card game the past four years, but they have lost ugly. For example, in those past four playoff games the team has been outscored 66-3 in the second halves. I can't imagine that Lewis returns next season, despite having a contract, if the team doesn't finally break through this winter. I mean, the Broncos reached a Super Bowl two seasons ago with John Fox yet parted ways with him after an ugly playoff loss last season.
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The Bengals were 5-3 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 1-7 "over/under." Their 2015 road schedule ranks as the sixth-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' combined 2014 winning percentage of .555. It's actually the third-easiest in the AFC North.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 13 -- at Raiders (+3.5): The Bengals better not overlook Oakland, although that might be easy to do with how bad the franchise has been the past few years. I definitely think the Raiders can pull the upset if Cincinnati is caught looking ahead to its home opener in Week 2. Plus, this could also be the final home opener in Oakland. First meeting between teams since a 34-10 Bengals home win in 2012. I'll say Bengals win here, but I'd probably take the points. Key trend: Bengals 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as a road favorite of at least 3.5 points.
Sept. 27 -- at Ravens (-3): This follows a Week 2 home game vs. San Diego for Cincinnati, while Baltimore is off a trip to Oakland. This is the Ravens' home opener. The Bengals opened the 2014 season in Baltimore and won 23-16. Star receiver A.J. Green caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton with 4:58 left for the winning score. It came less than a minute after Baltimore took the lead on an 80-yard Steve Smith TD catch. Dalton went 25-for-38 for 301 yards to help the Bengals end a four-game losing streak in Baltimore. Bengals lose here. Key trend: Bengals 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Oct. 18 -- at Bills (-1): Cincinnati comes off a home game vs. Seattle, while Buffalo is in Nashville in Week 5. This comes ahead of the Bengals' bye week. Cincinnati won the last meeting, 27-24 in overtime in Buffalo in October 2013. Mike Nugent hit a 43-yarder with 6:44 left in the OT. The Bills had rallied from a 24-10 fourth-quarter hole. Bengals win this. Key trend: Bengals 6-4 ATS in past 10 before bye week (any location).
Nov. 1 -- at Steelers (-3): Cincinnati off its bye week, while Pittsburgh is in Kansas City in Week 7. The Bengals closed last regular season with a 27-17 loss in Pittsburgh, which gave the Steelers the AFC North title. Green had a crucial fumble late in the game, and Pittsburgh scored on its first offensive play after to put it away. Dalton completed 27 of 38 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns but also tossed two picks. Bengals lose here. Key trend: Bengals 4-6 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 22 -- at Cardinals (-3): Short week for Cincinnati as it's off a Monday night home game vs. Houston. Arizona is in Seattle in Week 10. In my mind, the Cards and Bengals are a lot alike. Good enough to make playoffs but not to do anything while there. It's the first trip to Arizona for the Bengals since 2003. They lose. Key trend: Bengals 2-6-2 ATS in past 10 at NFC West.
Dec. 6 -- at Browns (+2): Cincinnati off a Week 12 home game vs. St. Louis, while Cleveland is on a short week, hosting Baltimore the previous Monday. Cincinnati played one of its best games of the season in Week 15 last season, a 30-0 win in Cleveland. That was Johnny Manziel's first career start, and he was terrible. The Bengals held their rivals to 107 total yards and five first downs. Jeremy Hill rushed 25 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Dalton didn't do much but didn't need to. Bengals win this. Key trend: Bengals are 0-4 ATS in past four as road favorite in series.
Dec. 20 -- at 49ers (-3): Sunday night game if it doesn't get flexed out. Cincinnati off a home game vs. Pittsburgh, while San Francisco is off a trip to Cleveland. If I'm starting an NFL team I'm not sure if I'd prefer Dalton, the No. 35 overall pick in 2011, or the Niners' Colin Kaepernick, who was picked No. 36. First meeting since an ugly 13-8 49ers win in 2011. Bengals lose. Key trend: Bengals 5-5 ATS in past 10 December road games as an underdog.
Dec. 28 -- at Broncos (-4.5): Monday night game. Denver is off a trip to Pittsburgh in Week 15. This could have major playoff ramifications as it did when the teams met Week 16 in Cincinnati last season on a Monday, a 37-28 Bengals win in the rain. Dre Kirkpatrick returned Peyton Manning's third interception of the game for a touchdown in the closing minutes; Manning would add a fourth pick. Hill had an 85-yard touchdown run with 147 yards overall, going over 1,000 for the season. The win clinched a playoff spot for the Bengals. He became the fourth Bengals rookie to rush for 1,000 yards and the first since Corey Dillon in 1997. Cincinnati loses this. Key trend: Bengals 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 4 points.
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