Bengals mailbag: What happens to Marvin Lewis?

CINCINNATI -- It has been a week to forget so far for Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

Between the headache of having to develop a scheme against for a rookie quarterback on whom there's relatively little film, to the added headache of having to backtrack from controversial comments he made on a live radio show on Monday, there are many reasons for him to want to move on from this week.

The best way to put it all behind him? Come up with a winning game plan at Cleveland on Sunday.

@ColeyHarvey: Saahil, you weren't the only person who had a question about Lewis' future. But yours is the only one that will get answered. First off, I don't like trivializing coaches' firing, as we're so wont to do in sports. With the high volume of similar questions I received, I felt compelled to say that. I guess when you're around a coach on a daily basis, it humanizes things a bit. That aside, though, I would imagine Lewis will find himself on the hot seat if the Bengals either miss the playoffs completely or have another one-and-done playoff appearance. As loyal and supportive as the Brown family has been over the years, it was rather telling that Lewis' contract extension in the spring was only for one year. It probably would have been slightly longer had Lewis' teams recorded at least one postseason win in these last last 11 years. And no, I don't think the controversy this week sped up his departure, but I do believe he's got to get this team at least another three wins this season to make sure he's coaching here next year (two in the regular season, one in the playoffs). I'll also say this. If there comes a time after the season when the Bengals do decide to make a change, they might be smart to elevate from within. (Read: Hue Jackson.) After all, their offensive coordinator certainly will be courted for head coach jobs this January.

@ColeyHarvey: I honestly have no idea how many of the final three regular-season games the Bengals will win. The league has been all about parity this season, and Cincinnati has been among the more inconsistent teams. When the Bengals get down, even in games you think they have a chance to win before kickoff, they often end up getting blown out. When they get up and get out to big leads, they look very good. The thing is, you just can't predict which team will show up week to week. If I had to guess, I'd say they might only win one of the next three. If I had to pick with my gut, though, I'd say they win Sunday and take the finale at Pittsburgh. Two wins, and they're in. One win and they will need a lot of help to get into the postseason. No wins and we might be on Lewis watch.

@ColeyHarvey: The Bengals will be rocking the white jersey tops and black pants Sunday, Rohan. Since the last uniform overhaul in 2004, they are 19-22 in that combination. They are 1-1 this season in that combination, losing 27-0 at Indianapolis and winning 22-13 at Houston.

@ColeyHarvey: It's safe to say both Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard have evolved this season, Andrew. Kirkpatrick had problems with consistency during his first two years of his career, but this year, he's been just that. It was always a high-risk, high-reward type of scenario whenever he was on the field. The risk was that he'd get burned deep by an opposing receiver. The reward was that he might come away with an interception. Last year, Kirkpatrick had three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. This season he seems to be taking fewer chances, thereby affecting his turnover results. Still, Kirkpatrick has been strong; better, even. Not only was he part of the clutch goal-line stand early in the victory at New Orleans last month, but he was part of the goal-line stand against Pittsburgh last week. Dennard was on that series just before halftime, too. The fact that both young corners held their own in a difficult situation spoke volumes about how well they've been playing, and the confidence their teammates have in them. Will they start next year? It's possible one could. The 36-year-old starter Terence Newman will be a free agent this offseason, but he's in the middle of one of his best years. If the Bengals don't re-sign him, he would have to be replaced. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see what happens with the logjam at corner the next two years.

@ColeyHarvey: I'll go with the latter part of your question first. Beyond stats, I think Andy Dalton has had a truly solid season. I wouldn't go out on a limb and say it was a great one -- those performances against Indianapolis and Cleveland are glaring. Still, he has made marked improvements from last season. You have to credit A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu with some of that. Green is back to Pro Bowl-caliber play, and Sanu did a great job filling in for Green when he was injured. Both receivers have been good at various times of the year of getting open and going right to the spots Dalton has been passing to. You also have to credit Jackson for giving Dalton the right balance of encouragement and criticism. He's definitely lifted Dalton's playing confidence. That explains the higher completion percentage and better overall command. The diversity and creativity of the scheme has made his touchdowns (and possibly, interceptions) decrease. Several goal-line run calls early this year accounted for Dalton's scoring dropoff, too.