The Indianapolis Colts take on the Cleveland Browns Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
This may just be the type of game the Colts need after getting pounded by the New York Jets on the road last week 35-9. In that game the combination of injuries and lack of depth turned what some (including myself) thought would be a competitive game into a total blow out. Unfortunately, as far as injuries go, things are almost as bad this week as last. We will likely see starting CB Vontae Davis back after a 2-week absence and its possible ILB Pat Angerer may see his first action all season. So what’s the good news?
The Colts play the Browns, and they play them here in Indianapolis. At Lucas Oil they appear to be a quite different team than what we saw against New York or in week 1 at Chicago. In 3 home games so far this year (2 wins, 1 loss), the Colts have averaged 25 points per game, and have allowed an average of 21 points per game. On the road? In 2 games the Colts are averaging a paltry 15 points per game and giving up a staggering 40 points per game.
Andrew Luck looks vastly different at home as well. In three home games Luck has thrown for 899, 6 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. In the road games he’s thrown for 589 yards, only 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. So clearly there is a difference, and the players and coaches are going to have to figure out how to address that difference and find the best way to make it change.
Speaking of Luck, he had what was probably the worst game of his rookie campaign last week (280 yards, zero touchdowns, and 2 interceptions) against the Jets strong pass defense, but looks to come back strong this week against a Cleveland unit that ranks 30th in pass defense. Regardless, Luck is going to have to look to someone other than Reggie Wayne to have success, and he needs more help from the run game. Starting running back Donald Brown is out again this week, so the job is Vick Ballard’s once more. Ballard will need to show a heck of a lot more than the 25 yard output he had last week.
3 Things to Watch
The Rookie Quarterbacks - Both teams in this contest will feature 1st round rookie quarterbacks who have started every game this season. The Colt’s Luck and the Browns’ Brandon Weeden. This will be a re-match of sorts of this year’s Fiesta Bowl, where Weeden’s #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys topped Luck’s #4 Stanford Cardinal 41-38 in overtime. Luck has easily had the more success to start this NFL season, but Weeden is coming off his first victory last week when the Browns defeated the Bengals 34-24. Both defenses lack any real difference makers in the secondary, so it’s possible we could see an aerial assault today.
Colts Tight Ends - If someone other than Reggie Wayne is going to make a play in the passing game, it’s going to be the two rookie tight ends. Early in the season, Dwayne Allen was seeing a lot of targets. The past few weeks though, those targets seem to have gone to Coby Fleener. Luck needs to develop a steady chemistry with at least one of these two to loosen up the coverage that Wayne will draw.
Trent Richardson – Lest we forget, Jets running back Shonne Greene exploded for 161 yards and 3 scores against the Colts last week. Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson, even dealing with a rib injury, could potentially do the same kind of damage. Prior to the Colts game, Greene had averaged on 43.4 yards in 5 games. Richardson is averaging 56.6 yards per game. With all of the injuries the Colts have on their defensive front, it could be the break out game the Browns need from T-Rich.
My 5 Predictions
Andrew Luck – Luck is at home where he has greater success, and faces a porous pass defense. That makes a recipe for a rebound game. Luck goes 22-34, 320 yards, and two touchdowns.
Fleener and Allen – The two rookies need to work themselves into the pass game, and I see that happening this week. They combine for 9 catches and 90 yards, with one catching a score.
Reggie Wayne – Thanks to the above listed prediction, Wayne will also have a big game. He matches the 9 catches and puts up 125 yards with Luck’s other touchdown.
Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden – Both the Browns rookies will play well. Weeden will throw for 225 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. T-Rich goes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Final Score – Colts win a hotly contested game, 31-24.
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