COMMENTARY | Who could've seen this one coming?
After the Browns and Lions combined to go just 9-23 in 2012, it's fair to say that both teams have exceeded expectations thus far in 2013. Cleveland and Detroit are a combined 6-4 this fall, and both teams have realistic playoff aspirations nearly a third of the way through the 2013 NFL season.
While the sudden turnaround of these two franchises has been one of the feel-good stories in the NFL this season, one team will slip back to .500 this weekend, and that team will be the Lions.
These are four reasons why Cleveland will beat Detroit in Week 6:
The FirstEnergy Stadium Crowd
The FirstEnergy crowd was amped up all night long during Cleveland's 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, so you know Browns fans are going to bring the noise in this important matchup against the Lions with the division lead on the line.
Throw in the fact that the Lions are just 18-81 on the road since 2001, and it's really difficult to see Detroit coming out on top in the frenzied environment that is FirstEnergy Stadium.
Cleveland's Run Defense Is Legit
Detroit running back Reggie Bush has had a couple of pretty solid games so far in 2013, but he's likely not going to be much of a factor against Cleveland.
That's because the Browns' defense is giving up a mere 94.2 rushing yards per game this season. With the exception of a 54-yard touchdown run by Bills running back C.J. Spiller in Week 5, Cleveland's run defense has been nearly flawless in 2013 -- not good news for a Lions team averaging just 89.4 yards a game on the ground.
Buster Skrine Has Stepped His Game Up In 2013
Of course, a big reason Detroit doesn't average many rushing yards per game is because the Lions have one of the most pass-oriented offenses in the NFL. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will likely put the ball in the air at least 40 times against Cleveland.
While Browns cornerback Joe Haden will have his hands full with Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the real key could be how well Cleveland's other corner, Buster Skrine, matches up with Lions wideout Ryan Broyles, who will be stepping in for the injured Nate Burleson.
If Skrine can continue to play as well as he has over the last three weeks in Week 6, it's going to be a long day for the Detroit passing game.
Detroit's Defense Is Nothing To Write Home About
Even with inconsistent quarterback Brandon Weeden leading the Cleveland offense, the Browns should be able to rack up plenty of yards against the porous Detroit defense.The Lions have given up 392.8 yards per game thus far in 2013, a number that ranks ninth worst in the NFL this season.
The Browns will be able to move the football against Detroit, but the key here will be to finish these drives with touchdowns, not field goals in a game that could turn into a shootout.
Final Prediction: Browns 31, Lions 21
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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