Bobby Layne curse might be ending/Paul Peterson

As curses go, the one invoked by former Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne has been a dandy.

No, it hasn’t been as enduring as the “Billy Goat” hex on the inept Chicago Cubs. Or the previously effective Babe Ruth curse (now exorcised) on the Boston Red Sox.

But Layne, who helped the Lions to their last world championship in 1957, reportedly said the team would never win another title after he was unceremoniously traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958.

Layne, noted for his late night antics, has been good on his word. The Lions – with few exceptions – have struggled to reach .500 since 1957.

Oh, there were some fine Detroit teams in the 1960s. But Vince Lombardi’s Packers were always just a step or two ahead.

And the 1970 Lions came within inches of beating Dallas in the playoffs, a pass from Greg Landry to Earl McCulloch barely missing in a 5-0 defeat.

The great Barry Sanders made things interesting in the early 1990s. But again, all his heroics produced was one playoff victory.

The downtrodden Lions suffered the ultimate humiliation of an 0-16 season a few years ago.

Now, the NFC Central crown appears to be theirs for the taking.

The injury to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers has all but doomed the injury-riddled Green Bay Packers this season. The aging Chicago Bears are just a shell of their former selves. The Minnesota Vikings are holding weekly QB auditions.

The Lions have a powderpuff schedule left (Steelers, Bucs, Giants, Vikings etc.). And that Thanksgiving showdown with the Packers suddenly doesn’t look very imposing, unless Rodgers makes a miracle recovery.

Detroit has managed to stay healthy, and as long as they keep Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in the lineup, they’ll win a minimum of 10 games.

Even an injury to Stafford wouldn’t be a total disaster because Shaun Hill might be the best backup QB in the league. Third-string QB Kellen Moore would now be welcomed in Green Bay.

But long-suffering Lions fans should know better than to count their chickens.

They only have to recall the infamous Milt Plum interception late in the 1962 Green Bay game. The equally fatal kickoff return they gave up to the obscure Dave Williams of the Bears to win the 1980 Thanksgiving Day game on the first play of overtime.

There was also Scott Mitchell’s inglorious slide a half-yard short on a critical fourth down versus Tampa Bay in a key 1996 game.

And of course, Calvin Johnson’s touchdown reception against Chicago a couple of years ago that was literally stolen by a silly rule change.

I can go on and on, but you get the point.

If, and it’s big if, the Lions clinch the division in late December, then all Detroit fans can finally celebrate.

Until then, the champagne will remain on ice.