What's the best cure for a team that really struggled on the road last week? How about a game at home against a 1-5 team with a rookie QB, which is exactly what the Colts will get Sunday when the Cleveland Browns visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
Even though the Browns are 1-5, they did record their first win of the season last week, beating the Bengals at home 34-24, avenging a Week 2 loss to their division rival. Their rookie QB, first round pick Brandon Weeden, has easily had the toughest transition to the NFL of the five rookie starters, even though he's seven years older than the rest of his draft class. Weeden however wasn't their highest draft pick last April, as they took RB Trent Richardson fourth overall. Richardson suffered a rib injury last week in the win, but all signs point to him playing on Sunday. We'll get into how well he will do in a bit.
The Colts and Browns met last year, a 27-19 loss in Week 2, well before we knew just how bad the 2011 season was going to be. I can't really take anything from that game and project it onto this year, as both teams are drastically different on both sides of the ball, which means it was just one bad team beating another bad team last year. All-time the Colts have a 12-14 record against the Browns, and had won five straight before last season. In those five games, all involving Peyton Manning, the largest margin of victory was 7 points, and the Colts failed to score more than 13 points in any of the last 3.
How do these two teams match-up in 2012? Let's take a look at the numbers:
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Browns (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||47.8%||25||64.5%||30||54.9%||16||47.7%||10|
|Avg Start Pos||27.9||27||32.7||28||32.6||5||31.1||21|
|3 and Outs||2.98||8||5.09||1||5.55||32||3.84||15|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.691||12||1.259||2||1.164||28||0.947||10|
Keys to the game:
- The story's been the same the first five games for the Colts, and expect more of the same on Sunday: Turnovers will be the key to the game. The Browns Defense forced four Bengals turnovers last weekend, and sit 9th in the NFL in forcing them, so it's something they do well. On the flip side, the Browns Offense seems to like to turn the ball over, but the Colts Defense hasn't been good at all getting Turnovers, so a couple on that side will definitely go a long way in determining a winner.
- Overall the Browns Defense looks pretty average across the board, not really struggling in any area. One place I see a disadvantage for the Colts is in the Orange Zone and the Red Zone. The Browns are ranked 10th in the NFL, while the Colts have really struggled to score TDs once they get deep into opponents territory. If the Colts get this back on track, it'll be a good sign.
- When the Browns have the ball, I'm guessing we're going to see quite a few Three and Outs, as the Colts Defense is tops in the league, while the Browns are worst in the league. I'd probably expect about five of them, based on these numbers.
- Even though the Browns look completely anemic on Offense, there seems to be one area they may have an advantage, and that's in the Orange Zone, where they're ranked 16th, while the Colts defense, fresh off allowing five TDs in five chances last week, is ranked 30th. Against the Packers, the Colts just kept them outside that area, as they had four TDs in six trips inside the 35. It's really becoming a problem area for this Defense, and something to watch for on Sunday.
- Will we see another rushing Defense disaster like we did against the Jets? According to the numbers, no, but the Jets weren't all that good running the ball either before last week. It certainly helps that Richardson is a little banged up, but my guess is they'll be using a similar gameplan to the Jets, and the Colts will just have to stop them. Potential returns of Pat Angerer and Robert Mathis will definitely help, but it doesn't look like we'll see a repeat performance.
The Colts have looked like a completely different team at home than they have on the road, which should be expected from a young team. It certainly helps they're playing an opponent that looks to be inferior on paper. The Colts need to avoid the mistakes we've seen from them, and try not to fall behind early. The Packers game is definitely not the norm, and should be assumed we won't see a comeback like that again this season. It'd be much better to see them play the first half like they did against Minnesota and Jacksonville, just not sit on the lead too much and let the Browns back in the game.
If the Colts make it through the game with no turnovers, there's no doubt they win. They are a better team than the Browns, and they're playing at home. Any talk of Playoffs goes out the window if they can't get a win Sunday, which I think they'll do pretty easily.
Colts 23, Browns 13