It is not often that a team that loses its first game in the NFL finds itself in a must-win situation in game two—enter the Cleveland Browns.
With an up-and-coming quarterback in Colt McCoy, an early favorable schedule which includes the NFC West and AFC South, Cleveland was picked by many media outlets as a possible AFC sleeper.
Combine that with their first two games against the likes of rookie Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and Indianapolis Colts stop-gap quarterback Kerry Collins, there is no valid reason why Cleveland should not be 2-0 right?
Clearly the Browns did not get the memo.
In losing to the rebuilding Bengals 27-17, Cleveland looked more like the team that was rebuilding and inept as they would commit 11 penalties—10 in the first half— than Cincinnati who looked like a team on the rise.
The rookie Dalton outplayed the second-year McCoy and looked more confident in the pocket, Dalton would go 10-of-15 for 81 yards and one touchdown before leaving the game with a sore right hand.
McCoy would go 19-of-40 for 213 yards and throw two touchdowns passes—both to tight ends—Evan Moore and Ben Watson. McCoy would also be intercepted by Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson.
For Cleveland, it appears that they have serious issues on the offensive line, McCoy would end up being sacked twice and hit often. If Cleveland is going to improve to 1-1 on Sunday, they must do a better job of protecting McCoy from the Colts speedy defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Cleveland—despite their promise on offense and defense can ill afford to drop to 0-2 in the rugged AFC North which features Super Bowl contenders and AFC heavyweights, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
For the Colts, who were routed in Houston by the Texans, 34-7, they are clearly a mere shell of themselves without Peyton Manning under center.
Indianapolis looked lost and could find any rhythm on offense as Houston would force two fumbles and sack Collins three times—led by linebacker Mario Williams two—the Colts looked completely hapless.
The lone bright spot for Indianapolis, wide receiver Reggie Wayne would score the lone touchdown for the Colts—a six-yard pass from Collins—in garbage time. Wayne would finish the game with seven catches for 106 yards.
Cleveland may be able to exploit the Colts smaller defensive line with running back Peyton Hillis. The Colts gave up 167 yards on the ground—116 of them to second-year running back Ben Tate—how much could a power-run team in Cleveland with a tough bruising back like Hillis get?
This Browns-Colts match-up may be decided by which team can establish its identity on offense first, while the Colts are at home, they look like a glorified junior varsity team with Manning, while Cleveland has a hungry and motivated young team that desperately wants to get its first win.
Cleveland’s offense will feature a heavy dose of and McCoy on rollouts to negate Indianapolis’s speed on defense.
Hillis and the Browns defensive line look like it will make it a long day for Collins on Sunday.
Prediction – Browns 28 Colts 10
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