This Browns team will need the offense playing on all cylinders against their biggest challenge yet: the Indianapolis Colts. Boasting a great defense, with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback leading an offense that knows how to stretch the field, mistakes cannot be made this week against the Colts.
If this team can defeat Indianapolis, Cleveland will be seen as legit contenders in the AFC, but that is easier said than done. Now, let’s get into this preview and see if there’s a chance to convince you (or myself) that this week’s game will go smoothly.
Protect Baker Mayfield… Again
I said it last week and I’ll say it again: protect Baker Mayfield. This is even more important this week against the Colts’ top-ranked defense. See why I said it would be their biggest challenge? The Colts have the best defense in the league, led by DeForest Buckner up front; Darius Leonard leading the linebacking corps; and a young, but underrated, secondary. This is a game where Mayfield may need to take over and establish himself as the franchise guy the Browns have been looking for. If the offensive line can give Mayfield time to throw, he can take advantage of the young secondary (minus Xavier Rhodes) and make some plays. Even if the game ends up a loss (I hope not), if Mayfield plays great, it can do wonders moving forward as a team.
The Colts have multiple ways to move down the field. Their main issue while moving down the field is converting on third-downs. Currently, they are in the bottom-half of the league in conversions at around 34%, according to TeamRanking.com; which, if you’re good at basic math, then you can tell… they’re really bad. Now, I have been critical of the Browns secondary, mainly the safeties, but if the defense can force the Colts into third downs, especially third-and-long, it’ll do them a lot more favors in getting off the field. The more the defense is on the field, the worse it’ll get. I’m sorry, Browns fans, but it’s true.
Win the Turnover Battle
As I’ve mentioned multiple times, the Colts defense is really good. They have averaged roughly two turnovers per game and Mayfield has been great at keeping the ball away from the other team the last two weeks; but if he’s put under pressure early and often from the Colts defensive line, he will make mistakes, as would most quarterbacks — but that’s not the point. Rather, the point is, keep Mayfield as clean as possible and pray that he doesn’t have to take the game over to win. Mayfield hasn’t shown that he can be a true game changer yet, and this week is not the week for him to try and prove it.
Personally, I don’t like this match-up, mainly for the amount of defensive playmakers on the Colts. But, Indy’s offense is middle-of-the-pack, so if the Browns defense can capitalize on stopping the Colts offense, Cleveland has the players to win, or at worst, keep the game close.
Score prediction: Colts 28, Browns 24
(Featured Image: ClevelandBrowns.com)