Handling Harangued Hoosier Horses: Browns – Colts Preview

All the warm and fuzzy feelings the Cleveland Browns (0-2) generated after their opening week contest went up in smoke last week in the face of Baltimore’s stifling, thieving defense. Five takeaways are enough to give anyone a migraine (too soon?), but the Browns will get another chance to regroup and hopefully hang onto the ball when they visit the Hoosier State to battle the underwhelming Indianapolis Colts (0-2).

Cleveland is 14-14 all-time against the Colts franchise including the 1964 NFL Championship Game victory. Since the club relocated to Indy in 1984 the Geldings lead 10-6. These two teams have met eight times since the Browns returned in 1999 with Cleveland’s lone win coming in a 27-19 road win in 2011. Fun fact: I attended and saw Peyton Hillis rush for 94 yards and two touchdowns. It’s a nice stadium.

One might call the Colts un-Luck-y in 2017. Andrew Luck, their franchise signal caller, underwent surgery during the offseason to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. His recovery is ongoing, and the team has yet to announce a projected return date. The club has suffered greatly in his absence. Scott Tolzien started Week 1, but managed only nine completions for 128 yards and two interceptions while being sacked four times. Head Coach Chuck Pagano changed tacts against Arizona by starting second-year hurler Jacoby Brissett. The former Patriot managed 22-of-40 passes for 267 yards and a pick along with four sacks. Over two games tailback Frank Gore has rushed for 88 yards and a score on 24 attempts, averaging 3.7 yards per touch. Tight end Jack Doyle leads the club with 120 yards on ten receptions. The Colts have yet to pass for a touchdown this season.

The Browns’ run game has underwhelmed in 2017 so far. Primary back Isaiah Crowell has gained 70 yards on 27 touches for a 2.6 yards/attempt average. He has yet to record a touchdown this season. Duke Johnson has picked up a scant 21 yards on four carries. If Crowell continues to struggle, however, it’ll be interesting to see if Johnson gets more attention.

There is something about this game I have not yet told you. Are you sitting down? The Browns are favored to win! You read that right, for the first time since Week 13 of the 2015 season the Cleveland Browns are 1.5 favorites entering play on Sunday. They have not been road favorites since Week 6, 2014 – a 24-6 loss at Jacksonville. The Browns might be marginally better than last year, but the favoritism likely stems more from the Colts’ deficiencies than the Browns’ progress. Either way, Cleveland should relish their position as Vegas darlings.

The Browns looked overmatched in their first two weeks, but the Colts may finally present an opponent they can go toe-to-toe with. The close proximity and Cavs-Pacers hostility always gives these matchups a little extra something. Some might even argue that if the NFL made sense they could be in the same division. Your season outlook may influence your goals for the game. A win would build morale, but with Indianapolis looking like a plane in freefall it may come back to haunt when it comes to the Draft pecking order. Still, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Browns to make the folks in Vegas look smart.