After back-to-back home victories, the Colts (8-4) travel to Cleveland for a Sunday match-up with the Browns (7-5). Sunday also marks the beginning of the final quarter of the season in which we will see our beloved Colts play three of their final four games away from Lucas Oil Stadium. The push towards the playoffs begins Sunday.
The Browns are one of the surprise teams of the NFL this year. A team that began the year with aspirations of winning 5 or 6 games is now a legit contender to reach the playoffs, but they will need some help which makes their game tomorrow as close to a must-win as you can imagine.
The Colts also have lots at stake tomorrow. A Colts win combined with a Texans lose and we will be looking at back-to-back AFC South champions and a guaranteed home playoff game.
So, how exactly do the Colts defeat the Browns? We found out mid-week that the Browns are sticking with Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback which means the Colts MUST apply pressure and force Hoyer into mistakes. The Colts are without their stud cornerback Vontae Davis, so Josh Gordon could have a field day if the front-7 are unable to apply pressure on Hoyer.
The keys to a Colts victory are the same as they have been all year – the Colts must rush the passer, protect Luck, and demonstrate some resemblance of a running game. Despite consecutive victories over the Jaguars and Redskins (who have a combined record of 5-19 by the way…), the Colts were still unable to protect Luck who was constantly running for his life which led to poor throws and lost fumbles. Luckily, we were playing against opponents – the same cannot be said against the Browns anymore.
It would be nice to think that Trent Richardson may FINALLY have a huge breakout game with this being his return to Cleveland, the team that traded him away to Indy last year. Well, we have been hoping for that for over a year now and we have not seen it – no reason to think it will happen tomorrow. The way that Boom has been running the ball recently, minus the fumbles, might as well keep feeding the man with the hot feet.
Obviously, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Johnny Manziel. The Browns proved last week they are not shy about yanking Hoyer in favor of Manziel – which honestly scares the hell out of me because the Colts have never been a solid defender of the mobile quarterback. But, hopefully if Manziel sees action it will be after the Colts have posted a 21-0 lead, in which my fears would diminish.
When the schedule was released and I saw this game I thought it was an automatic victory. But now, I don’t think it’s that much of an open-and-shut case. Our secondary has many holes – and going into tomorrow’s matchup without Vontae really concerns me, especially since this same secondary just gave up 392 passing yards to Colt McCoy a week ago.
The Colts are going to score points – it’s what they do with Luck at the helm, but this game will be won or lost by our defensive front. If The Colts can solidify a consistent pass rush and force Hoyer and/or Manziel into mistakes, the Colts may have this thing wrapped up by halftime. But if Hoyer has 5-6 seconds in the pocket to throw then he and Gordon could torch us.
Based on what I have seen recently from our defense, I have no faith in them. I hope I am wrong, but I envision a shootout between Luck and Hoyer with the right foot of Mr. Reliable Adam Vinatieri saving the day.
Final Score: Colts 31 Browns 28