OK, how much longer can the Cincinnati Bengals keep Marvin Lewis as their head coach? Yes, I understand the team is having unprecedented regular-season success under Lewis. He is 112-94-2 in the regular season there and Cincinnati has made the playoffs five straight seasons, easily the longest stretch in team history.
But at what point does postseason failure trump regular-season success? To be fair to Lewis, the Bengals looked like a legitimate threat to reach the Super Bowl last year before quarterback Andy Dalton, in the midst of his best season, injured his thumb in a Week 14 loss to Pittsburgh. That would cost Dalton the rest of the season, and the Bengals lost the wild-card game at home to those Steelers 18-16 -- thanks to incredibly stupid penalties from Cincinnati defenders Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones that got the Steelers in position for the winning field goal.
Thus, that's five straight one-and-dones for this franchise and Lewis is now 0-7 in his playoff career. The Bengals gave him a one-year extension through 2017 this offseason. Lewis is the NFL's second-longest tenured coach. He reportedly had come up with a two-year succession plan with former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to replace him as Bengals head coach, but owner Mike Brown wouldn't put the agreement in writing. Instead, the Bengals lost the highly-respected Jackson to Cleveland as the Browns' new head coach.
The Bengals were 6-2 on the road last season, an amazing 8-0 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." Cincinnati travels to three teams that made the playoffs last year, but this schedule is tougher than that because the NY Jets, Dallas and Baltimore are also on it and could be playoff clubs in 2016 with good health. New York nearly made it last year. The Bengals have a wins total of 9.5 at BetOnline for the coming season. I don't see better than 4-4 on the road this year, though.
Sept. 11 at Jets (+1.5, 43): Cincinnati is going to want to win this game because I could conceivably see a 1-5 start if it doesn't, with that lone win Week 4 at home vs. Miami. I'm sure the Bengals are hoping that the Jets don't re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick and go into this game with Geno Smith as their starting QB. That line would surely grow if that's the case. These teams last met Week 8 of the 2013 season in Cincinnati, a 49-9 Bengals win. Dalton had a career-high five TD passes. Key trend: Bengals are 2-8 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Sept. 18 at Steelers (-4): This is Pittsburgh's home opener and on a short week as it visits Washington on Monday in Week 1. There is a lot of bad blood between these teams after all those wild-card shenanigans by Cincinnati. But Burfict, the main protagonist, will still be suspended for this one (first three games of the season), so that might help matters a little. Cincinnati won in Pittsburgh in Week 8 last season, 16-10 off the Bengals' bye week. Dalton threw for the go-ahead score with 2:57 left and the Bengals picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice in the fourth. That improved Cincinnati to a franchise-best 7-0. Key trend: Bengals 3-7 ATS in past 10 as at least a 4-point road dog in series.
Oct. 9 at Cowboys (pick'em): Dallas is off a trip to San Francisco, while Cincinnati is home to Miami on a Thursday night in Week 4. Obviously the Cowboys should be much better than the 4-12 they were last year assuming Tony Romo is healthy. This game might be personal for Jones as he played one season for Dallas but was cut in 2009. It's Cincinnati's first regular-season game in Big D since 2008. Key trend: Bengals are 9-1 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
Oct. 16 at Patriots (-4): New England is in Cleveland the previous Sunday and this will be the Pats' first home game of the season with Tom Brady active, assuming his suspension stands. Cincinnati last visited Foxboro Week 5 of the 2014 season and was pummeled 43-17. The Bengals lost three fumbles and failed to convert their seven third-down plays. Key trend: Bengals are 1-8 SU in past nine at Patriots (5-4 ATS).
Nov. 14 at Giants (+2): Monday night game with the Bengals off their bye week. New York is off a Week 9 home game vs. the Eagles. The Bengals often don't do well in prime-time games. Under Lewis, they are 8-20 in regular-season and postseason night games. Key trend: Bengals are 6-4 ATS in their past 10 November road games as a favorite.
Nov. 27 at Ravens (+1.5): Baltimore is off a Week 11 trip to Dallas, while Cincinnati hosts Buffalo the previous Sunday. The Bengals won at the Ravens 28-24 in Week 3 last season. Dalton threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 2:10 left. Green finished with 10 catches for two scores and a career-high 227 yards. Dalton threw for 383 yards and three scores. Key trend: Bengals are 1-4 ATS as road favorite in series (not since 2008).
Dec. 11 at Browns (+7.5): Cleveland comes off its very late bye week, while Cincinnati is home to Philadelphia the previous Sunday. The Bengals trashed the Browns on their home field 37-3 in Week 13 last year. Dalton threw for two scores and ran for one. Key trend: Bengals are 4-6 ATS in their past 10 as road favorite in series.
Dec. 24 at Texans (+1): Saturday night game. Houston is off a Week 15 home game vs. Jacksonville, while Cincinnati is home to Pittsburgh the previous Sunday night. These teams met Week 10 last season on a Monday in Cincinnati and it was one of the least-entertaining games of the year, a 10-6 Bengals loss. It was their first loss of the year. Dalton threw for only 187 yards and was sacked three times. Key trend: Bengals are 5-5 ATS in past 10 at AFC South teams.
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