Lions-Browns Final Thoughts: Worries about an upset a good sign for the Lions; sticking with my pick and dealing with the Browns' strength; two good reasons not to take the Browns lightly; Random Thoughts starting with sizing up how Brian Mihalik (6-9) and Jamal Agnew (5-10) are examples of Lions' patching holes.
Beware: If the Detroit Lions aren't flying caution flags and posting warning signs to guard against being overconfident as heavy favorites to beat the winless Browns, it's because they aren't needed.
The Lions are fully aware of the many times an underdog pulls an upset.
As the Lions start the second half of the season with a 4-4 won-loss record, they have a lot to gain with a victory. It would keep them in touch with the first-place Vikings in the NFC North, and strengthen their bid for a wild card playoff berth.
There's a flip side, and it ought to motivate the Lions just as much. They have a lot to lose. A loss would severely damage those same playoff hopes.
Head coach Jim Caldwell continues to stress focusing on the opponent at hand, and never taking anything for granted.
"Most of the guys in this league understand how every single team is capable of beating anyone else," Caldwell said this week. "It's that old phrase these guys have heard since they were little: 'Any given Sunday.' It's a fact.
"If we don't play well, we'll get beat, and that's a fact. If we do play well, we'll have a chance."
Sticking with my pick: The Lions are solid favorites for a reason. They're the better team. Injury issues continue to make the offensive line a question mark against the Browns' strong front seven. They're talented and aggressive, which is expected under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' scheme.
Turnovers can change the game, but they can't be predicted. The Lions can't phone it in, but they have enough veterans who know what's at stake.
They won't blow it.
Prediction: Lions 31, Browns 13.
Two reasons to worry:
1. 2009 – Rams at Lions: Rams are 0-8 going into the game at Ford Field and win, 17-10. It's their only win of the season for a 1-15 record.
2. 2010 – Lions at Bills: Bills are 0-8 going into the game and win, 14-12. The Lions score their only TD with 14 seconds left but fail to connect on a pass for the two-point conversion.
One reason that doesn't matter: The 2017 team is much better than the 2009 and 2010 teams.
Tall order: 6-foot-9 Brian Mihalik was a starter at left tackle in good performances by the offensive line in the last two games. He took over for Greg Robinson, who went out with an injury against the Saints in Game 6 and never returned to the lineup. He was waived-injured on Friday.
Both games were on prime-time TV – Sunday night vs. the Steelers, Monday night vs. the Packers – but Mihalik said that didn't add any pressure.
"I try to block it out, kind of push all that stuff aside and do what I can to help us win," said Mihalik, who entered the NFL as a defensive end and was converted to offense two years ago by the Steelers.
Speed to burn:** Rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew's speed lets the Lions to use him part time on offense in addition to being the primary return man and a backup in the secondary. He had times of 4.32 and 4.35 seconds for the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Only veteran cornerback Darius Slay is faster.
He had a 12-yard catch and run against the Steelers two weeks ago and a four-yard run against the Packers Monday night. A limited snap count on defense allows him to spend time with the offense, in addition to his work as a return man.
It wouldn't be a surprise if the Lions find ways to give him a few more touches on offense.
In other words: The Browns' struggles were summed up in this lead-in to a column by veteran beat writer Tony Grossi in the team's return from the bye week: "Tales from another winless half-season:"
The Browns are 0-8 for the second straight season. They skidded to 0-14 last year before winning a game and finishing 1-15.
Crowd control: The Lions' fan base is growing at Ford Field as the team has become a consistent playoff contender. The 2009 game against the Browns drew a crowd of 43,170. With standing-room tickets going on sale Friday, attendance should be about 20,000 higher today.