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Five things to watch: Lions vs. Browns

The Detroit Lions (4-4) look to make it two in a row as they host the Cleveland Browns (0-8) today at Ford Field. A win would give the Lions just their second back-to-back wins of the season, as they try to string some victories together heading into the second half of the season.

The Brown may not have a victory yet this season, but Lions coaches and players are not taking today's opponent lightly. The Browns are coming off a bye, and their defense is ranked among the top 10 in the NFL.

So, what are five things to look out for in today's game?


The Lions activated left tackle Taylor Decker off the PUP list Saturday, which is a pretty good indication the second-year tackle will make his 2017 debut later today.

Decker missed the first eight games of the season after injuring his right shoulder back in June that required surgery. Decker's been back at practice for a week and a half now, and doctors, trainers and coaches feel he's ready to resume game action.

Decker was one of the better left tackle tackles in football last year as a rookie, so his return is a big boost for a Lions offensive line that's been rather inconsistent through the first eight games.

Decker will square off against No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, who has four sacks in the three he's played this season.


Turnovers are key in every game, but because these teams are on varying ends of the turnover spectrum, they seem to have even more importance in this one.

The Lions are a plus-six in turnover differential, fourth best in the NFL. Detroit's generated 16 takeaways (10 interceptions, six fumbles) and have turned it over 10 times themselves.

Cleveland is tied with Denver for last in the league with a turnover differential of minus-12. Cleveland's turned the ball over 21 times in eight games, the most in the NFL, and 17 of those have been via interceptions.

A turnover or two early in this game by either side could swing the momentum and change the dynamic of this game.


The Lions will be without a few key starters on offense and defense vs. Cleveland. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (back) is listed as doubtful. Right guard T.J. Lang (concussion) and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (ankle) have already been ruled out.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Nov. 10, 2017.

The Lions will need the combination of Cornelius Washington, Jacquies Smith and Jeremiah Valoaga to step up in Ansah's place and fill the void opposite Anthony Zettel.

On the other side of the ball, Detroit could turn to Emmett Cleary, who started in place of Lang once already earlier this year, or they could give the nod to veteran Don Barclay.

Veteran Paul Worrilow is likely to step in for Reeves-Maybin, who recently shifted into a starting role.

Rookie receiver Kenny Golladay practiced all week, and could make his return today after missing the last five games with a hamstring injury. He was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report.

Inactives will be listed on at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning.


Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has proven throughout the first half of the season that he'll stick with the run game, whether it's making hay or not, along as the scoreboard allows him to do so. Cooter is a big proponent of keeping a defense honest via a balanced attack. The Lions have averaged 25 rushes per game this season.

Unfortunately, the run game doesn't have a lot to show for its stubbornness. The Lions rank 29th running the football at just 79.9 yards per game. Detroit is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Last week in Green Bay, Detroit ran the ball 33 times for just 64 yards (1.9 average).

If there's one thing the winless Browns have done well all season, it's stop the run. Their rushing defense is fourth-best in the NFL (84.3).

The Lions will continue to try and be balanced on offense. Will they have better luck with it today?


The rookie second-round pick out of Notre Dame is getting his trial by fire as the Browns' starting quarterback. Through the first seven games, he has just three touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He ranks 32nd in the league in completion percentage (52.1) and yards per attempt (5.37).

Coming off the bye week, Kizer told that he took the time off to do some reflecting and self-scouting, and feels it did him some good. Offensively, head coach Hue Jackson said the bye week gave the Browns an opportunity to delve into what Kizer has done well, and the plan is to do more of those things moving forward.

The Lions' defensive scheme is complicated, and coordinator Teryl Austin throws a lot at a quarterback in terms of personnel and coverage looks. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger commented before his Oct. 29 game against Detroit that he expected Austin to give him a different coverage on every third down.

For a rookie, that's a lot to process. Rookies also tend to make mistakes. The Lions need to rush, hit and confuse Kizer into making mistakes.

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