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Milt Northrop’s Playbook: Lions, Browns have mastered the art of suffering

The Bills’ four-year Super Bowl run is a distant memory and Buffalo’s long playoff drought is bothersome, but would Bills fans want to trade places with the long-suffering followers of the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns?

Neither has been to even one Super Bowl. The Lions have won just one playoff game since their last NFL championship in 1957 - over the Browns coincidentally enough.

Cleveland’s last league championship was in 1964, Jim Brown’s next-to-last season. Browns fans still have nightmares over playoff losses to the Raiders in 1980 and Denver’s John Elway and The Drive in 1986. Cleveland’s last playoff victory was in 1993 over New England, 20-13, under Bill Belichick.

Must be something in the Great Lakes waters.

Even worse, both the Lions and Browns have suffered almost unimaginable walk-off losses in the last two weeks. Cleveland fell to the rival Baltimore Ravens (nee the original Browns) on a return of a blocked field goal try. The Lions, who had led, 20-0, were on their way to a second victory over hated old rival Green Bay only to lose on a desperation pass after time ran out.

Both Detroit and Cleveland have a shot at winning Sunday against lowly opposition. The Lions are a pick ‘em against the struggling Rams in St. Louis. The Browns are a slight favorite at home against San Francisco and retread quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

A capsule look at the Week 13 games:

Game of the day

Steelers (7-5) at Bengals (10-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-3).

The scoop: A.J. Green tore up Pittsburgh secondary for 11 catches, 118 yards when they met last month at Heinz Field, but Bengals won only 16-10. Bengals intercepted Ben Roethlisberger three times and contained Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.

Outlook: Do you think Pittsburgh is going to give up supremacy in AFC North without a fight? Pittsburgh has won four times in last five visits to Cincy. Steelers, 30-27.

Top attractions

Bills (6-6) at Eagles (5-7)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Bills (-1½).

The scoop: Eagles win over Patriots was one of those fluky games, but they happen a lot in the NFL. Philly got scores on 99-yard INT and 83-yard punt return as well as blocked punt return. Patriots piled up 27 first downs, 18 passing. ... Eagles more dangerous with Sam Bradford back at QB than they were with Mark Sanchez at QB. ... Bills will miss CB Stephon Gilmore.

Outlook: Even if LeSean McCoy is super-motivated against former team, be wary of Bills on road against NFC East. Philadelphia, 30-27.

Patriots (10-2) at Texans (6-6)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-3).

The scoop: A tougher trip than the Patriots were looking forward to, given their injuries. They were hoping to heal up and coast to playoffs. ... Loss to Bills was heartbreaker for Texans last week. Another loss here would just about K.O. their playoff hopes. ... It will be interesting to see if Belichick can neutralize J.J. Watt as effectively as Bills did.

Outlook: Patriots now have to worry about blowing home field for AFC playoffs. New England, 33-20.

Raiders (5-7) at Broncos (10-2)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-7½).

The scoop: Raiders had shot at beating Chiefs last week before QB Derek Carr had fourth-quarter meltdown, throwing three INTs, the last returned for wrap-up TD. ... Denver has become efficient, less explosive team, since Brock Osweiler took over at QB for injured Peyton Manning. Denver is 4-1 at home, but three of the wins were by six points or less. ... Broncos’ defense limited Chargers to 93 rushing yards and 179 passing on road last week.

Outlook: Homecoming for Jack Del Rio, who was Denver’s defensive coordinator last season. His Raiders make a game of it. Broncos, 20-14.

Titans (3-9) at Jets (7-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Jets (-7).

The scoop: Titans finally won a home game last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick-Brandon Marshall passing combo, Chris Ivory running and defense have Jets playing like a playoff team, but this is perfect spot for one of those infamous Gang Green Flops. Fitz passed for 390 yards in win over Giants last week and Marshall had 12 catches. ... Titans’ rookie QB Marcus Mariota became first player in NFL history with 250-plus passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards in same game.

Outlook: Titans make them work for it. Jets, 23-20.

Cowboys (4-8) at Packers (8-4)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Packers (-7).

The scoop: Another game that conjures up historic NFL memories, Bart Starr TD in famed 1967 Ice Bowl playoff game. ... Miracle finish at Detroit can’t hide fact that Green Bay offense is struggling. They were on way to fifth loss in six games before bail-out call by zebras led to last-play TD pass.

Outlook: Even with Matt Cassel, Cowboys have enough to make Pack work for it. Green Bay, 23-17.

Best of the rest

Colts (6-6) at Jaguars (4-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Pick ’em.

The scoop: Indy getting some competition for AFC South title. Jaguars were in race until losing 42-39 shootout at Tennessee. Blake Bortles of Jags has 27 TD passes but 13 INTs. ... So-so Colts are 3-0 in division so far.

Outlook: Colts not ready to surrender division they’ve owned. Indy, 27-20.

Seahawks (7-5) at Ravens (4-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-6).

The scoop: All four Ravens wins were on last play of game, their eight losses by a total of 34 points. Seahawks averaging 34.5 in last four games and has won four of last five. ... Except for Cam Newton, Russell Wilson may be hottest QB in league.

Outlook: Seahawks move ahead in NFC wild-card race. Seattle, 27-10.

Falcons (6-6) at Panthers (12-0)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-7½).

The scoop: Falcons were supposed to be Super Bowl hopeful, instead they have lost five in a row, four by close scores. Cam Newton is league MVP. One more game with passing TD and rushing TD would tie him with Steve Young for most in league history (31). ... First meeting this season of NFC South rivals. Last time Falcons visited, Dec. 28, 2014, they were routed, 34-3, with two scores coming on INT returns.

Outlook: Falcons man up for a change. Carolina, 27-21.

Saints (4-8) at Buccaneers (6-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-4).

The scoop: Rookie QB Jameis Winston has Bucs thinking playoffs. Saints are thinking house-cleaning. Bucs could win next three before trip to Carolina. Tampa also has No. 2 rusher in league in Doug Martin (1,133 yards). ... Saints defense allowing 425.2 ypg.

Outlook: Bucs keep dreaming, 33-21.

Giants (5-7) at Dolphins (5-7)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Giants (-1½).

The scoop: Heat building up on Tom Coughlin among Big Blue fans and media after loss to Jets last week and previous clock-management questions. It’s not as if the guy never won anything and it’s not as if he has a loaded roster. ... Dolphins fired offensive coordinator then scored one offensive TD and gained just 219 yards in 15-13 home win over Ravens.

Outlook: Dolphins waiting for another coaching change. Giants, 24-16.

Redskins (5-7) at Bears (5-7)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Bears (-3½).

The scoop: They’ve only met 41 times although they’ve been members of NFL since the 1930s. Of course most famous was Bears’ springing devastating T-formation on Redskins in 1940 NFL championship game and winning, 73-0. Washington has won 11 of last 13 meetings, including last five and six of last seven on road.

Outlook: Chicago is 1-5 at home, but Redskins are winless away from Landover. Shaky vote for Bears, 17-10.

Chargers (3-9) at Chiefs (7-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-10).

The scoop: Chargers have lost seven of last eight while Chiefs have won last six, including 33-3 rout at San Diego two weeks ago.

Outlook: Chiefs coasting to playoffs, 27-19.

49ers (4-8) at Browns (2-10)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Browns (-1½).

The scoop: Big news here is that Johnny Manziel gets the start at QB for Browns unless he found a party in Cuyahoga Falls on Saturday night. ... Browns’ seven-game losing streak is NFL’s longest now. If Niners were in NFC East they would be one-game out of division lead. San Francisco coming off OT win at Chicago.

Outlook: Johnny Football leads Browns’ win, touching off hysteria in Mistake by the Lake. Cleveland, 27-24.

Dog of the day

Lions (4-8) at Rams (4-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Pick ’em.

The scoop: Lions would be sitting on four-game win streak except for borderline face mask penalty which enabled Packers to try game-winning Hail Mary pass 10 days ago. ... Rams, who have averaged 10.8 ppg in five-game losing streak, fired offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti last week.

Outlook: Unless Lions cave after blowing chance to sweep division rival Packers, they should top punchless Rams, 20-17.

Last week’s results: 8-7 straight up; 8-7 versus spread.

Season’s record: 107-69 straight up: 91-80-5 versus spread.


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