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Packers wary of winless Browns

Rob Reischel

The Sports Xchange

GREEN BAY — No one wants to be the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only team in NFL history to ever go 0-16. For the second straight season, Cleveland is trying to avoid that ghastly label.

The 0-12 Browns have four chances left to enter the win column and elude being called the worst team in NFL history. Perhaps Cleveland’s most winnable game comes Sunday, when it hosts a mediocre Green Bay team (6-6) that will be led by one of the NFL’s most inconsistent quarterbacks in Brett Hundley.

The visiting Packers are currently 3 1/2-point favorites.

While the Browns face a mountain of pressure to dodge a winless season, Green Bay also carries the burden of trying to avoid being the team that loses to winless Cleveland.

“I think the thing that sticks out the most is that if you disregard the record and look at the actual film, they’ve got some playmakers on their team,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We’re approaching this the way we would be any other week.

“I know a lot’s made out of them getting their first win and not wanting to be that team that is on the losing side of it. But for us, as of last week, we know what we need to accomplish as far as these last five games and now four. We’ve got to get this win or it looks bleak for us. It’s business as usual.”

Since 1980, just five teams have started the year 0-12. Here’s how those teams finished up:

—2016 Cleveland Browns: Yes, the Browns were in the exact predicament last year as they are today. Cleveland actually sat at 0-14 before defeating San Diego, 20-17, in Week 16 to avoid a winless season.

—2011 Indianapolis Colts: The Colts played the 2011 season without Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and started the season 0-13. Indianapolis won two of its last three games to finish 2-14, but still landed the No. 1 pick in the draft and selected Stanford’s Andrew Luck.

—2008 Detroit Lions: These Lions remain the only team to ever go 0-16. Detroit was outscored, 517-268, that year and lost 10 of its 16 games by double digits. The Lions were tied with thePackers, 14-14, in the fourth quarter of their Week 17 game. But Green Bay scored 17 fourth-quarter points and pulled away for a 31-21 win.

2007 Miami Dolphins: Miami began the 2007 season 0-13, before the forgettable Cleo Lemon hit Greg Camarillo with a walk-off touchdown to beat Baltimore in overtime. Those Dolphins finished the year 1-15.

—2001 Detroit Lions: Those Lions began the year 0-12 before edging Minnesota, 27-24, in Week 14. Detroit finished that season 2-14.

Green Bay is currently tied for eighth place in the NFC with a 6-6 record, two games behind Seattle and Carolina (8-4) for the final two wild-card berths.

The Packers know they can’t lose again if they want to earn a playoff spot for a ninth straight season. And the last thing they want to do is become the first team in 2017 to lose to Cleveland.

“Just be a pro,” Packers wideout Jordy Nelson said. “You’ve got to take care of your business. Nothing changes. We need to worry about what we have in for this game. It’s not going to be an easy game to play. It’s not going to be an easy game to go win. We’ve just got to prepare well and go play well.”

Series history

The Packers lead the Browns 11-7 and are 6-4 all-time in Cleveland.

Notebook

—Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked sharp during controlled drills in practice. Rodgers, who broke his collarbone on Oct. 15, was accurate and threw the ball with zip.

“Yeah, he looks like himself,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. “It’s good to have him out there. It’s good to see him back progressing.”

—Cornerback Demetri Goodson was activated from the physically unable to perform list. Goodson suffered an ACL tear on Nov. 20, 2016, while covering a punt against Washington.

“Words can’t really put into, explain what I’ve been through,” Goodson said of his comeback. “This whole year has been a very long year, a lot of ups and downs. But I finally made it, I finally made it.”

—Right tackle Jason Spriggs has started the last two games and performed well. Spriggs, a second-round draft choice in 2016, had played poorly until recently. “I thought he took a really big step,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said of Spriggs. “I thought Tampa Bay was his best game and we’ve definitely taken a big step towards some continuity on our offensive line for the first time this year.”

NOTES: CB Kevin King, Green Bay’s second-round draft choice in April, was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. King played in nine games his rookie season, made five starts, had eight passes defensed and wasn’t involved in a turnover play. ... ILB Jake Ryan (neck/illness) did not practice Wednesday. ... OLB Nick Perry did not practice due to foot and shoulder injuries.

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