James Hawkins, John Niyo, Justin Rogers and Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News offer predictions for Sunday’s Lions-Browns game at FirstEnergy Stadium (1 p.m., Fox/97.1).
► James Hawkins: With Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield both banged up, this could turn the contest into a one-dimensional game. That could bode well for the Lions if Nick Chubb (COVID-19) and Kareem Hunt (calf) are both sidelined. But the problem is the Browns have one of the better run defenses in the league and have proven they can win without their key pieces, while the Lions are far from stout against the run and have yet to show they can string two strong outings together. Browns 24, Lions 13
► John Niyo: Baker Mayfield is going to give it a go. Jared Goff probably isn’t. But even Lions fans who’ve seen enough of the latter have to realize a backup QB with four career pass attempts — and just 43 regular-season snaps — is unlikely to lead an 0-8-1 team to victory on the road against a playoff contender. Browns 27, Lions 13
► Justin Rogers: A young team, the Lions have yet to figure out how to build off of their small successes, oscillating between them and woefully disappointing performances. Not that there’s many good matchups for this roster, but the Browns present some particularly troubling concerns, most notably their ability to stop the run. While the forecast is always subject to change in the Midwest, it’s definitely going to be chilly and there’s a good chance for rain. If the Lions can’t move the ball on the ground, an offense that already struggles to put up points will be in even bigger trouble. Browns 31, Lions 16
► Bob Wojnowski: The Browns are banged up and 5-5. The Lions are banged up and 0-8-1. And yet, it could be an interesting clash. Baker Mayfield is expected to start despite a series of injuries, and this might be the Browns’ last chance to launch a playoff drive. For the Lions, Tim Boyle is poised to make his first start, as Jared Goff’s oblique injury makes it hard to throw. Of course, it’s been hard to throw all year, and the Lions are last in the league in passing yards. The Browns are desperate. In a different way, so are the Lions, who haven’t lost in three weeks. (Bye, tie). That streak is in jeopardy. Browns 27, Lions 17