The Indianapolis Colts (3-3) are hosting the AFC North’s Cleveland Browns (3-2). Indy’s offense will look for QB Gardner Minshew to bounce back though he has quite the test against a league-best defense from Cleveland.
Date/Time: October 22nd, 2023, 1 PM ET
Weather Forecast: 54 Degrees F, Sunny
Broadcast Crew: Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (color analyst), and Aditi Kinkhabwala (sideline)
Stream: FUBO, NFL Sunday Ticket
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan and 97.1 HANK FM
Radio Crew: Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color analyst), and Larra Overton (sideline reporter)
Referee Assignment: Shawn Smith
Things are gloomy in Indianapolis and it’s not just the weather. After another heartbreaking trip to Jacksonville and the Anthony Richardson news, Colts fans have had a rough week.
The NFL is a learn-and-move-on league though. No time for hanging of the heads, the Cleveland Browns are coming to town.
Indy will host the best defense in the league this week. The Browns are riding high after a big-time win over what many consider the best team in the league, the San Francisco 49ers. Debuting this Sunday are Indy’s new alternate Indiana Nights which features the team’s first ever primarily black helmet and brand new to the league heathered uniforms.
Not a throwback. This is a whole new era. ⚫️🔵
Indiana Nights, debuting this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/gLIYb5nFmC
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 18, 2023
Browns Defense an All-Timer?
Through 6 weeks of the season, Cleveland leads the league in most defensive statistics. The stingy Browns defense is allowing only 200.4 yards per game. They are on a historic pace to be the greatest defense ever.
The Browns defense has been HISTORIC this season pic.twitter.com/algmalknwQ
— PFF (@PFF) October 20, 2023
77 points total have been scored against the Browns. 23 percent of third downs have been converted against the juggernauts. Overall, a defense that is 1st leaguewide in Defense DVOA (-29.3%) by a whopping 12.7%. This will be the toughest test for the Colts yet.
Cleveland isn’t causing turnovers at a high rate, which makes their defensive numbers that more impressive. Gardner Minshew will still need to take care of the ball much better than he did in the previous week.
The Need To Capitalize
With a tough test comes the opportunity for an enormous win, especially for an offense that will look different with Gardner Minshew, as opposed to Anthony Richardson.
The Indy offense will need to be great in the running game and passing game this week. Limiting turnovers will be a must. Let the big-time playmakers eat.
A Minshew-led offense will likely feast on YAC (yards after catch) opportunities. We’ve seen the ability to break off for a chunk play from both Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs. Give those guys a chance and they can make defenses pay.
Josh Downs averaged 5.19 separation yards. The league average is 2.94 yards. pic.twitter.com/hDBkbWQFRx
— Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) October 8, 2023
Jonathan Taylor is still working back to his normal self. In his absence, Zack Moss has been better than just a placeholder. Both backs have great vision and toughness to finish runs. Give either a running lane and they might house it.
On the defensive end, the Colts are young but the potential is flashing every week, especially in the secondary with JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones. If the offense can keep them from having their backs against the wall, I like their chances to limit the Browns.
Amari Cooper will be the main focus for Gus Bradley and company. Cooper is a stud wide receiver and he will need to be held in check. I expect JuJu Brents to draw that assignment for the most part.
Kareem Hunt has always been a dangerous back during his career. The front 7 of Indy will need to hold strong and fill the running lanes. Luckily, that is a strength of the Colts.
Indianapolis is familiar with quarterback, Deshaun Watson from his time in Houston. Everyone knows the tools and talent that he possesses. The defensive line of the Colts should dial up the pressure and get Watson off-schedule.
There is a chance that the Colts see a different backfield for the Browns. Watson and Hunt have been limited this week in practice. Watson was a full participant on Friday though.
Will the Colts offensive line be at full strength ever this season? Indy will miss right tackle, Braden Smith this Sunday. Expect Blake Freeland to fill his role.
Kylen Granson, tight end, has also been ruled out for Sunday. This means more snaps for Drew Ogletree and Mo Alie-Cox. Fans would love to see Will Mallory as well.
Alec Pierce is currently questionable for the game with a shoulder injury. Losing a deep threat isn’t ideal for a thin WR room.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 20, 2023
Browns: Linebacker Sione Takitaki has been ruled out for Cleveland on Sunday. A couple of important offensive pieces are questionable in Deshaun Watson and Kareem Hunt. Tight end Harrison Bryant and cornerback Greg Newsome are also questionable.
Game Prediction: Don’t expect a shootout in Lucas Oil Stadium with potentially two backup QBs against these defenses. This will certainly be a grind of a matchup. I’m rolling with 20-14 Browns over the Colts.
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