By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The winless Detroit Lions are clearly the NFL's worst team this season.
They might be the worst in the league's modern era, earning a spot in the conversation with the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1980 New Orleans Saints, 1986 Indianapolis Colts and last year's Miami Dolphins.
"It's hard, but it's fair," Detroit running back Kevin Smith said.
Detroit (0-13) seems destined to make NFL history as the first 0-16 team with a game Sunday at Indianapolis and a home finale against New Orleans before closing the season at Green Bay.
If the Lions seal the deal by losing their last three games, at least one former Buc from the infamous 0-14 team will not be popping champagne to celebrate.
"It's a tough situation," said Vikings linebacker coach Fred Pagac, who played for Tampa Bay in its inaugural season. "I hope something works out for them."
After the Bucs went 0-14, three teams threatened to join them in league infamy before Detroit dropped into the bad company this season.
The 1980 Saints lost their first 14 games before finishing 1-15. The 1986 Colts started 0-13, then won their next three games. The 2007 Dolphins began 0-13 last year and ended 1-15.
Tampa Bay, though, set the bar low for awful teams during its expansion year three-plus decades ago.
Clad in ghastly creamsicle uniforms and helmets bearing a winking pirate logo, the Bucs stumbled and bumbled their way to the modern standard for NFL futility.
Tampa Bay was shut out five times and outscored on average by three touchdowns with rookie defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier.
"There is a kind of reverse immortality that comes with playing on a team like that," former Buc defensive end Pat Toomay has said.
Even if the Lions follow up their awful season with another, they will be hard pressed to match the Bucs' 26-game losing streak between the 1976 and '77 seasons, which still stands as NFL record.
Detroit is, however, in the midst of the worst eight-season stretch since 1950 by winning just under 25 percent of its games since 2001.
The Saints matched Tampa Bay's 0-14 record, but had two more games to finally win. They took advantage by winning on the road by a point against the New York Jets.
Fans in the Big Easy were particularly upset 28 years ago because the Saints were 8-8 the previous season. Archie Manning was a solid quarterback, but New Orleans' defense was dreadful.
On Nov. 24, it cost coach Dick Nolan his job.
As the losses piled up for a team known as the "Aints", a local media personality, the late Bernard "Buddy D" Diliberto, suggested that Saints fans wear paper grocery bags over their heads. Ever since, the brown paper bags have become a familiar sight.
The Colts went 0-8-1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, then managed to lose even more games four years later.
The late Robert Irsay made many poor decisions that led to the losing before giving his son, Jim Irsay, the current owner, power to run the team.
Quarterback Jack Trudeau was a rookie in 1986 and finished the season with a 53.6 rating, eight TDs and 18 interceptions. The Colts were outscored 400-229 that year, which ended with a three-game winning streak after Rod Dowhower was fired and Ron Meyer was hired.
Miami avoided making history by beating Baltimore last season in Week 14.
Poor depth made a wave of injuries too much to overcome.
Running back Ronnie Brown led the league in yards from scrimmage when he was sidelined for the season by a knee injury, quarterback Trent Green and linebacker Zach Thomas later joined him on injured reserve. When 2002 rushing champion Ricky Williams returned from a suspension, he lasted only six carries before a chest injury ended his season.
Smith expects the Lions to find a way to win a game, just as the Dolphins did last season.
The rookie said he would be a "coward" and would let his teammates down if he believed otherwise.
"If deep down I feel we're going 0-16, that means I don't plan on going out and doing my job Sunday," Smith said. "Is it possible at 0-13? Yeah. Let's just be realistic about the situation."
AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall in Tampa, Brett Martel in New Orleans, Mike Marot in Indianapolis and Steve Wine in Miami contributed to this report.