The Browns head deep into the heartland on Sunday to take on the Peyton Manning-less Colts as the Browns look for not only their first win of the season but also Pat Shurmur’s first win as an NFL head coach.
Indianapolis record: 0-1
Offensive rank: 28th overall/24th passing/26th rushing
Defensive rank: 20th overall/14th passing/29th rushing
All-time record: Browns lead 16-14, with a 3-4 mark in Indianapolis (although the Browns were 6-1 against the Colts when they still played in Baltimore)
Last meeting: Colts won 10-6 in 2008
The line: Browns (-2.5)
What to Watch For
How the Browns respond after last week’s loss to the Bengals.
Far too much importance was placed on last week’s loss – it was Opening Day, it was Shurmur’s first game as coach, the Bengals scored a touchdown on a ridiculous play – that people have forgotten that it still only counts as one loss.
The Browns need to forget about last week, settle down, and just play football. If they do that then everything else will take care of itself.
What they can’t afford is a repeat of Week 2 from last season. After losing the opener because of self-inflicted mistakes, the Browns dialed up a sequel the following week against Kansas City.
They can’t do that again this week – if the offense stumbles around in the first quarter like they’ve never played together and rack up penalties, then this game could look a lot like last week’s game.
Much like last year’s squad, the Browns are still not talented enough to overcome too many mistakes and hope to win. They have to play as close as they can to a perfect game to have a chance to win.
This would be a great week to get the running game back on track. The Texans ran for 167 yards against the Colts in Week 1 – without Arian Foster – so there’s little reason to think that Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty can’t have success on the ground.
A strong running game will help take some of the pressure off the offensive line, which will counter the pass rush of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis with a right tackle rotation of Oriel Cousins and Artis Hicks. Pound the ball between the tackles and Freeney and Mathis can speed rush off the edge all they want and it won’t matter.
On defense the Browns catch a huge break as they will face Kerry Collins rather than Manning at quarterback.
In the opener against Houston, Collins fumbled on consecutive snaps in the first quarter to set up Houston touchdowns, was sacked three times and the offense mustered only 236 yards and 15 first downs.
Sounds like a great day for the Browns front four to show what they can do in defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s “play fast” defense.
One key to the Browns success on defense will be how well safety T.J. Ward plays against tight end Dallas Clark. Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham had six catches last week as the Browns continue to struggle when it comes to covering tight ends, no matter who is running the defense.
One player we’re confident we don’t have to worry about is corner back Joe Haden, who had a monster game in the opener. Haden completely locked down A.J. Green, who’s only catch on the day came when the Browns blew the coverage. Haden’s match-up with Reggie Wayne should be a fun one to watch.
The Best Browns vs. Colts game ever
This is an easy one: the Browns 27-0 win over the Colts in the 1964 NFL championship game – the Browns fourth NFL title and the defining moment for every Cleveland fan born after Dec. 27, 1964.
Honorable mention should go to the 1987 playoff game, however, a 38-21 win by the Browns. As this game was sandwiched by the two AFC Championship games against Denver, it often gets overlooked by Browns fans.
We were sure the Browns were going to get the Pat Shurmur era off on the right foot last week, but that obviously didn’t work out.
We’re a little worried that if the Browns can’t beat the Colts without Manning, who will they beat this year?
And we would feel better if the Browns were getting points, rather than being a road favorite.
But what the heck. Last week was one of those days and, despite everything that happened, the Browns still probably should have won the game. There’s no way they mirror last season and bring out a sequel this week against the Colts.
We’ll take the Browns to win on a Phil Dawson field goal, not only evening their record at 1-1 but also covering the spread.
Record picking the Browns (using the point spread) this year: 0-1-0.
(Photo by The Plain Dealer)