The Washington Redskins will end a streak today at the Silverdome. They just hope it's the right one.
The Redskins will try to end their futility against winning teams and extend their winning streak against Detroit to 19 when they play the Lions today.
If they accomplish both goals, the Redskins will remain in sole possession of first place in the NFC East with an 8-4 record.
But if the favored Lions break their losing streak to the Redskins that dates to 1965, the Redskins will be 7-5 and fall into a tie with Dallas if the Cowboys beat New England.
With a win over Philadelphia, Arizona would boost its mark to 6-6 and move within a game of the Redskins when they play in Washington next week.
The Lions and Redskins both enter the game 7-4, but they're viewed differently.
Bobby Ross is a Coach of the Year candidate for keeping the Lions among the NFC Central leaders without Barry Sanders all year and wide receiver Herman Moore for much of the year.
Norv Turner, by contrast, is still looking for his first playoff berth in his sixth season, and he knows new owner Dan Snyder will fire him if he fails to make it.
Turner's job security has been a season-long soap opera for the Redskins.
Each week, Turner has to have a conference call with media from the opposing team, and his status is always a topic of conversation.
"Usually that's the first question you guys ask," Turner said to the Detroit writers last week. He then tried to put the best spin on the situation.
"Probably the best thing was that Mr. Snyder came out in July and he made it clear. There's a lot of situations where it's a little vague and no one knows. But he came out and said, `You know you've got to make the playoffs.' "
It'll be harder to make it if the Redskins don't beat the Lions, who have more impressive victories on their resume than the Redskins.
While the Redskins have lost to the only winning teams they've played (Dallas, twice, and Buffalo), the Lions have beaten Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota and Tampa Bay and lost to NFC-leading St. Louis by four points.
An interesting subplot developed Friday when Ross told former Redskin Gus Frerotte that he'll get the starting nod because Charlie Batch is still recovering from a thumb injury.
This was after the Lions had Batch talk to the Washington writers on a conference call last week. It looks as if the Lions wanted to play down the Frerotte factor.
This will mean a lot to Frerotte. It's no secret there was a rift between him and Turner, who benched Frerotte for Trent Green and then released him.
Now Frerotte can come back and help cost Turner his job.
"It's going to be exciting," said Frerotte, who has two wins in relief of Batch, but is 1-2 as a starter. "I know those guys on defense, and that's going to be a different thing. If the emotions come out, they come out. There's nothing you can do to stop it. I'm just going to go out and do my thing."
The Lions are average on both sides of the ball without Sanders. They rank 17th on offense and 19th on defense. By contrast, the Redskins are ranked second on offense and 29th in defense, after being last for much of the season.
The key question, though, is why the Lions haven't beaten the Redskins since Lyndon Johnson was president. None of the Lions and four of the Redskins were alive the last time that happened.
One of the reasons: The Redskins were usually the better team. The Lions have never been to a Super Bowl, and the Redskins have gone to four.
Only three of those 18 losing Lions teams finished with a better record than the Redskins. And 14 of the games were played in Washington, 17 at RFK Stadium, where the Redskins had a legendary home-field advantage.
There were a few games, though, that suggested the Redskins had some kind of a hex.
In 1990, the Redskins trailed 35-14 early in the second half and pulled it out in overtime, 41-38. In 1995, the Redskins trailed 30-27 late in the game, but tied it and won in overtime, 36-30, when Darrell Green intercepted a Scott Mitchell pass and returned it for a touchdown.
The most recent time the two teams met in 1997, the Redskins won, 30-7, with Frerotte at quarterback for Washington.
Turner tried to downplay the idea that the streak might be an edge for the Redskins.
"This is our football team playing Detroit's football team, and what's happened in the last 134 years doesn't matter. This is two teams getting ready to go play a game," he said.
This is not just another game, though. It's not every day that a coach fighting for his job must figure how beat a quarterback he dumped the previous season.
It's just the latest twist in a soap opera of a season for the Redskins.