Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 9, 2017 at 11:05 AM
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CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-8) AT DETROIT LIONS (4-4)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Ford Field. TV: CBS, Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta.

SERIES HISTORY: 20th regular-season meeting. Lions lead series, 15-4. The Browns' winning percentage is lower against the Lions than against any other team in the league. The only time they've beaten the Lions in the last 31 years was in 2001 in a game, 24-14. This matchup features the two teams with the longest active drought without a Super Bowl appearance, 51 seasons for Detroit and 48 for Cleveland (Jets are also tied at 48).

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns had a week off to recharge and get healthy after their 0-8 start. When they study film, they will see that short, quick passes allowed them to build a 13-12 halftime lead over Minnesota on Oct. 29 in London. They might try to attack the Lions in the same way. Coach Hue Jackson likes to press the issue with a vertical offense, but the Browns aren't built for throwing deep.

Receiver Kenny Britt continues to skate on thin ice and has been an expensive free-agent bust. Quarterback DeShone Kizer has had success hooking up with running back Duke Johnson on short routes.

The Browns rank ninth in total defense and have lost four games by three points. The Browns believe they could have won a couple of those games, which gives them hope better results lie ahead.

But they haven't faced any elite quarterbacks. Injured rookies Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers were back at practice on Wednesday and certainly will be tested by Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

Despite being two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North, the Lions feel like they're in the driver's seat after demolishing the Packers on Monday night. Detroit plays only one team with a winning record the rest of the way, and the biggest challenge is avoiding a letdown and not taking opponents seriously, starting with the winless Browns on Sunday.

The Monday win snapped a three-game losing streak. The defense kept the Packers out of the end zone until late in the game and is licking its chops as it prepares to face Kizer.

Against a porous Browns defensive backfield, Stafford, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones could produce bigger numbers than they did against the Packers. Stafford threw for 361 yards, Jones had seven catches for 107 yards and two TDs, and Tate cracked the 100-yard mark with seven catches.

Running back Ameer Abdullah is capable of doing damage, but he must hang on to the ball -- he fumbled twice against Green Bay.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Browns CB Jason McCourty. McCourty is getting a test in his first game back from an ankle injury. Jones leads the Lions with five touchdown catches and a 15.6-yards-per-catch average. Jones has enough speed to make McCourty sprint on the ankle, which still might not be 100 percent.

--Browns QB DeShone Kizer vs. Lions DBs. Kizer's mission to "keep the ball out of harm's way" is going to be challenged. Cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quinn each have three interceptions. Kizer cannot afford to lose track of one of the Lions' ballhawks while concentrating hard on the other.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cleveland LT Spencer Drango. The Browns are learning what life is like without their best player over the past decade, Joe Thomas, who is out for the season. Drango will be making his second start since Thomas was hurt. In his first start, Drango earned passing grades, but had lots of help. The Lions have studied Drango and now will be ready to challenge the 2016 fifth-round draft pick out of Baylor.

FAST FACTS: The Browns are the first team to start 0-8 in consecutive seasons since the 1993-94 Bengals. The Browns are trying to avoid a second straight 0-9 start. ... Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer is one of five QBs with 125 yards rushing and at least three rushing touchdowns. ... RB Duke Johnson leads the team and ranks fourth among AFC RBs with 36 catches. ... Cleveland DE Myles Garrett has missed five of the first eight games because of injury, but he has four sacks in three games to lead the team. ... WR Kenny Britt has only 10 receptions and just about as many drops after catching 68 passes for 1,002 yards last season with the Rams. ... RB Isaiah Crowell scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 26-yard run against the Vikings on Oct. 29. ... WR Corey Coleman was designated to return from injured reserve and practiced this week. ... Detroit QB Matthew Stafford joined Dan Marino, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history to top 200 touchdown passes before their 30th birthdays. Stafford threw two TD passes Monday. Stafford now has 201 touchdown passes. His 1,096 yards in his last three games are the second most he has had over a three-game span in a season (he threw for 1,284 yards in Weeks 15-17 in 2011). ... P Sam Martin had a quiet Monday night game as the Lions did not attempt a punt for the first time since Nov. 25, 1971. ... S Glover Quin has three interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the past four home games. His 19 interceptions since 2013 are tied for second most in the league. ... K Matt Prater has made 18 of 21 field goals, and all three of his misses are from 55 yards or longer.

PREDICTION: The Lions will win because they are the better team and have more talent. QB Matthew Stafford has more firepower at his disposal than Cleveland counterpart DeShone Kizer. Stafford has reliable receivers; Kizer has nobody he can trust. Detroit's special teams are some of the best in the NFL. And coach Jim Caldwell will keep his troops focused and make sure they don't overlook Hue Jackson's squad.

OUR PICK: Lions, 37-10.

--Dennis Rudner

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