This is one of football’s most lopsided rivalries with Detroit leading the series 19-5. The Browns and Lions go all the way back to the ’50s where Detroit would regularly defeat Cleveland. This included the four NFL Championship games they met in, which Detroit won three out of four times.
The Lions would win 12 of their first 14 games winning four per one Cleveland victory. Even when Detroit began to deteriorate following star quarterback Bobby Layne’s departure and “curse”, they would continue to defeat the Browns.
Cleveland would win two straight: in the 1983 and 1986 seasons, the only time they have won consecutive meetings against the Lions. Following the original Browns’ relocation, the new Browns team is 1-4 against Detroit with their sole win coming during the 2001 season.
Detroit has won the last four meetings although the streak shouldn’t last much longer if the Browns continue trending towards a successful rebuild. Both teams made significant moves during the 2017 offseason and if they pan out, future games between both teams will have a more meaningful outcome. Maybe even a future meeting in the Super Bowl?
Cleveland Browns Recent History
Cleveland was THE football town of the early days of the NFL. With legends like Jim Brown and Otto Graham, the Browns played in 11 Championship games winning four in their first 20 years as part of the “NFL”. While they couldn’t extend this dynasty, the Browns were still competitive all the way until their relocation in 1995.
This new Browns team would be a far cry from its predecessor. In almost two decades, this new team could only muster two winning seasons and make one playoff appearance. Setting NFL records for futility, Cleveland’s 1-31 record from 2016 to 2017 is an all-time low by any sports franchise. They lost ten or more games in 15 of 19 seasons.
Offseason moves in 2018 promises that miserable seasons could be soon over, but the Browns have yet to prove they are anything but the butt of the joke in the NFL. On the bright side, it shouldn’t be difficult to improve on their previous two seasons.
Detroit Lions Recent History
They didn’t relocate like the Browns but their history is somewhat similar. The Lions were one of the NFL’s first dynasties winning three NFL Championships in the ’50s. They were led by Bobby Layne, a superstar quarterback who would later be traded to Pittsburgh in 1958.
The disgruntled star promised the Lions they would “not win for 50 years”. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the Lions stumbled through the league and make only three playoff appearances in the subsequent 32 years. They would only win one playoff game for almost 60 years.
The “Curse of Bobby Layne” would be punctuated by the first-ever 0-16 NFL season in 2008. But at least Detroit drafted Matthew Stafford, who would start to turn the franchise around. They have yet to win a playoff game in 26 years but the groundwork has been laid for a more competitive future.
Cleveland Browns Outlook
Cleveland didn’t just make a few roster tweaks. They outright revamped the entire offence. Taylor will finally give them a competent pivot and Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde are dependable targets at wide receiver and running back, respectively. Too bad All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas was injured as he would’ve further solidified the new offence.
On defence, the Browns drafted the best cornerback prospect in Ward on top of adding talented Bill E.J. Gaines. If the latter stays healthy, this automatically gives Cleveland two solid corners and will shore up their once-hapless pass defence. Super sophomore Myles Garrett can only get better as their leading pass rusher.
Too bad Cleveland retained Hue Jackson as coach. While he isn’t terrible, he’s not the type of coach to elevate a team although he could simply be a placeholder while Mayfield sits on the sidelines.
Detroit Lions Outlook
The Lions have enough talent to make a run for the division title but they have even more holes to fill. On offence, the Lions solidified their line by drafting Frank Ragnow at centre. They added LeGarrette Blount and drafted Kerryon Johnson to shore up the running game.
On defence, Detroit has stars like Ziggy Ansah (DE) and Darius Slay (CB) but they are thin everywhere else. Their linebackers are underwhelming and they need someone outside Ansah to create more pressure against opposing quarterbacks. Slay only covers half the field. They need another member of the secondary to step up.
Fortunately, Matt Patricia is a defensive guru and will make the unit better. But the Lions also have a tougher schedule in 2018 and still play in a division with the best NFC quarterback and two of the best defences. Detroit needs their key players to remain healthy and play elite football if they are to stand a chance.
This sounds weird: the Cleveland Browns have a better team on paper than the Detroit Lions. While the Lions have the better quarterback, the Browns will have a more complete defence. Their secondary is lights out and should help negate the difference in quarterback play.
Taylor and Cleveland’s running backs should be able to make plays on their feet against a thin Detroit front-seven. Detroit’s weak linebackers will be susceptible while the Browns’ offensive line is solid enough to cancel out Detroit’s defensive line.
Both teams have new coaches they are still adjusting to. Todd Haley will be calling the shots for the Browns’ offence and he’ll look to work the same magic he did with the Steelers albeit with less. The Lions switch from an offensive-minded Caldwell to a defensive Patricia. Jim Bob Cooter will still run the offence but expect Detroit to be more defensively responsible.
Cleveland should edge the Lions on the strength of having a more complete team.