The Cleveland Browns (1-5) travel to Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend to take on the Indianapolis Colts (2-3). The Browns are coming off of their first win of the season last week in beating their in-state rival Cincinnati Bengals 34-24 on Sunday. The Colts on the other hand are coming off of an embarrassing road loss to the New York Jets 35-9. Indianapolis didn’t even put up an effort to stop the run and flat out got embarrassed.
The game will match two rookie quarterbacks as Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden will take on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. These two last met back in January in the Fiesta Bowl as their respective schools played a thrilling game out in Glendale, Arizona.
So far Luck has showed more promise, but Weeden finally came out of his shell a bit in last week’s home win. He threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Luck on the other hand looked bad last week, but has looked pretty good in the other four games. Sunday was just his second game that he failed to reach 300 yards through the air so far this season.
Both teams come into the game having star players banged up. The Browns’ star running back rookie Trent Richardson was hurt last week and is questionable due to that rib injury. That will be a big blow to the team if he can’t play as he leads the team in rushing with 340 yards and four touchdowns, and receiving with 186 yards and one touchdown on 22 receptions. If he cannot play or is limited Cleveland will lean on his backup Montario Hardesty. He ran for a season-high 56 yards and scored his first career NFL touchdown last week.
Even with those injuries the Browns are going to try and do the same ground and pound philosophy the Jets used last week. The Colts are banged up on defense and could be without defensive lineman Cory Redding. His absence after he got hurt last week allowed the Jets to go off. The Colts also will be without Robert Mathis once again. They should see Dwight Freeney play again and get Pat Angerer back for the first time this season.
With the Colts being without some key defensive players and having their linebackers banged up I’d expect for Cleveland to stay on the ground until the Colts can prove they can stop them. They did this same game-plan last year as Peyton Hillis rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the Browns’ 27-19 Week 2 win in Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Browns don’t want to have to rely on Weeden to pass them out of trouble as he’s already thrown 10 interceptions this year and has proven to not be very accurate. He also doesn’t have any weapons in the receiving core and if forced to pass it could get ugly.
The Colts will certainly try and do the opposite and go through the air on Sunday. Cleveland ranks 30th against the pass in giving up nearly 300 yards per game and doesn’t have the personnel to stop Luck or his talented young group of receivers. I expect the Colts to mix in some runs to keep the 25th ranked rush defense at bay and allow for play-action situations to give Luck some deep throws.
The Browns have an AFC-best 10 interceptions for them so they do go after the ball. If Luck can keep the ball out of harms way and make good decisions there’s no reason he couldn’t have a breakout game on Sunday and lead the Colts back to .500.
Indianapolis 34 Cleveland 16