In Week 5, the Indianapolis Colts will face the best team they will have played so far in the Cleveland Browns. It’s crazy to think about that statement, regarding the Browns as good, but after four weeks, Cleveland stands at 3-1.
Here are three keys for the Colts to win in Week 5.
1) Make Baker Mayfield Beat You:
Baker Mayfield has had an efficient season so far through four games. He is completing 62.6% of his passes, has a 93.7 passer rating, and a career-high 73.3 QBR. However, he is only throwing for 182.3 yards per game. The Browns rely on their running game more than any team in the league this year, as evidenced by their league-leading 204.5 yards rushing per game.
Nick Chubb is out for an extended period of time, but the Browns have an experienced running back in Kareem Hunt taking his place. Hunt led the league in rushing in 2017, so he is very capable of being a No. 1 running back. Without Nick Chubb, however, the Browns rushing attack may be easier to slow down.
The Colts need to focus on the Browns running game and make Baker Mayfield beat them on third-and-long. Kevin Stefanski is known for his play-action game calling and two-tight end formations. Through four weeks using that formula, he has brought the Browns to 3-1, and their most successful start since 2001. If the Colts want to win this game, they have to force Baker Mayfield into passing situations and make him beat them through the air.
2) Attack the Browns Secondary:
Philip Rivers has done exactly what was needed of him in each of the last three weeks. He hasn’t thrown more than 29 passes in any game since Week 1, and the Colts are 3-0 in that time span.
Week 5 may require a different game script, however, as the Browns secondary is vastly worse than their run defense. The Browns are currently fifth in the league in rushing yards surrendered at 91.8 per game. Their passing defense, on the other hand, is third-worst in the league and currently giving up over 310 yards per game.
Week 5 is time to let Philip Rivers loose and see if he can still beat a team with his arm (I think he can). T.Y. Hilton has had little-to-no impact all season long. If there was ever a time for a player to break out and have a big game, it would be now. I would be genuinely shocked if he finished with fewer than 75 yards receiving in this game.
Sometimes, the best way to win a game is to find out where your opponent is weakest and attack. In this case, the Browns’ glaring weakness is their pass defense. The Colts need to press down on that weak spot early and find out what Philip Rivers really has left.
3) Win the Turnover Battle:
Good teams win the Turnover battle. Currently, the Browns sit at +6 on the season, which leads the league. In each of the last two games, the Browns have forced three turnovers while not giving the ball away.
The Colts aren’t far behind the Browns in the turnover differential, as they sit at +4 heading into Week 5. This game will come down to whoever can win the turnover battle. Both teams have had issues in the past regarding turnovers leading to unsuccessful seasons. Just last year, the Colts finished the season at only a +2 turnover differential, while the Browns ended at -8. Whoever wins the turnover battle, will win this game. Mark. My. Words.
Both of these teams play extremely similar styles and follow a similar game plan. In Week 5, it will be about which team is better at executing that game plan. This is the Colts’ toughest challenge so far this season, and it will teach us a lot about what we can expect from the Colts moving forward.