KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Ron Pitts, Brian Baldinger
SERIES: The Lions and Browns will be meeting for the 17th time in regular season competition, with the Lions holding a 12-4 edge. The teams also met four times in NFL championship games in the 1950s, with the Lions winning the title in three of them.
2005 RANKINGS: Lions: offense 30th (22nd rush, 27th pass); defense 18th (15th rush, 21st pass). Browns: offense 26th (30th rush, 12th pass); defense 27th (29th rush, 23rd pass)
PREDICTION: Lions 17-16
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns have been passing the ball nearly twice as much as they run it, which has contributed to 10 sacks allowed the past two weeks. Cleveland wants to improve its passing attack, but must establish the run better before going after a Lions defense that already has 10 interceptions. The Browns want to avoid turnovers because Detroit's own offense has been struggling. Whether Joey Harrington or Jeff Garcia gets the start at quarterback, the Lions want to exploit the Browns' run defense, which is allowing 140.2 yards per game. With their receiving corps still minus Charles Rogers and possibly Roy Williams, the Lions desperately want to build a lead and continue to pound away with RB Kevin Jones.
FAST FACTS: Home team has won past five meetings. Lions: WR Kevin Johnson, who leads the team with 17 receptions, played for Cleveland from 1999-03. Browns: QB Trent Dilfer is 1-7 against the Lions with four TDs and 11 INTs. ... WR Dennis Northcutt needs three punt return yards to break Gerald McNeil's (1,545) franchise record.
--QB Joey Harrington, who has started the last 37 consecutive games for the Lions, shared the practice field reps with backup Jeff Garcia this week but has not yet been told by coach Steve Mariucci whether he will get the starting assignment Sunday at Cleveland.
--QB Jeff Garcia looked sharper in his practice work Thursday than he did the previous day as he prepares for his comeback after missing six weeks of the season with a broken left fibula and sprained left ankle. Garcia got half the reps in practice this week while coach Steve Mariucci considered the possibility of giving him the start Sunday in Cleveland ahead of Joey Harrington.
--FB Cory Schlesinger appears fully recovered from the broken left fibula he suffered in the Lions' opening preseason game and is likely to get his first start of the season Sunday at Cleveland. Schlesinger, the lead blocker for RB Kevin Jones, bent his first face mask of the season, an indication to coach Steve Mariucci he's ready to play.
--LT Jeff Backus, who has started all 69 games since being drafted by the Lions in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft, missed both the Wednesday and Thursday practices with his sprained left ankle in a walking boot but coach Steve Mariucci believes there is still a chance Backus will be able to play Sunday at Cleveland.
--DE James Hall, who had missed the past two games entirely because of a quadriceps injury, has practiced this week more than he has in the past two but he said he is still not positive he will play Sunday in Cleveland. Indications are that he will test the injury in pregame warmups and play if there is no problem.
--WR Braylon Edwards is healing quickly from surgery to remove an infection in his arm. Edwards participated in part of practice this week, and even caught some passes. He is listed as doubtful on the injury report, but it would be surprising if he played. The Browns probably will give him one more week to heal.
--QB Trent Dilfer has heard all week that the Browns need to run the ball more, but Dilfer said the Browns merely need to do better. "If we can execute both the run and the pass we'll move the ball and score points," he said. Dilfer's main focus this week will be avoiding interceptions. Detroit has been adept at forcing turnovers.
--RB Reuben Droughns probably will get more carries this week. Droughns has run well when given a chance but fans and media have cried for the Browns to use him more. "Any running back will tell you they want to run the ball more," Droughns said.
--MLB Andra Davis knows the Browns need to improve against the run. Teams have run for 140 yards per game against the Browns, a figure that is just too high.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Veteran Jeff Garcia is doing his best to stay patient while coach Steve Mariucci mulls over his quarterback situation, but Garcia is sounding more and more like he is ready to take on the starting assignment Sunday in the Lions' game at Cleveland.
Although Garcia is practicing with the Lions offense this week for the first time since suffering a broken left fibula and badly sprained ankle in the final preseason game Sept. 2, he has shown only occasional signs of rust and there is very little to indicate he is not physically ready to play.
The Lions are 2-3 - tied with Chicago for the NFC North lead - but have struggled offensively, and Mariucci is splitting the practice reps this week between Garcia and incumbent Joey Harrington while he decides on a starter.
Mariucci has given himself no deadline to make that decision.
"I'm not ruling out that it could go up to game time," he said, "but we probably will consider something sooner than that."
Garcia said he is still experiencing some pain and discomfort from the injury, but he also said he did not believe they would be a factor if he got a chance to start against the Browns, the team with which he played last year.
"I'm sure the feel of the game, the speed of the game definitely is an adjustment," Garcia said. "Obviously, I've been sitting for six weeks, watching from the sideline and I've been mentally involved but not physically involved, so that's going to be a determining factor as far as how quickly I adapt and how quickly I get up to speed.
"I don't think come Sunday I'll be even thinking about any sort of soreness
or pain or anything like that. Adrenaline does wonders for your body."
Asked if he felt he would be limited in what he could do Sunday, Garcia shrugged off the possibility.
"I don't feel that I am showing any limitations out there," he said. "I think
that - especially for not being involved in the action for six weeks - I don't
feel like I'm that far behind or behind at all. I still move fairly quickly, I
have my movement ... my accuracy is where it needs to be and I feel mentally I'm
as sharp as I was six, seven weeks ago."
The Browns could be without their starting right tackle when they face the Lions. Ryan Tucker has a chipped vertebrae in his neck and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Tucker played most of the second half in Baltimore with the injury, and said he is in "pretty constant" pain. Tucker is the Browns most experienced lineman, and a team leader.
He is a good run blocker and solid pass blocker. But his pass protection was affected Sunday in Baltimore by the injury. He said he will try to play, but won't know until Sunday if he can. Kirk Chambers will replace Tucker if he can't play. Chambers started at left tackle for Stanford, but has not started a game in the NFL yet.