KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Lucas Oil Stadium. TV: CBS, Beth
Mowins, Jay Feely.
SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 14-14.
The Browns and Colts have a knack for playing close games. Eight of
the last nine contests have been decided by seven points or fewer.
The only game during that stretch that wasn’t as close was a 27-19
Browns victory in 2011.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Somebody will come away with their first victory
of 2017. Both teams rank in the bottom 10 in scoring average and
are hoping for a breakout performance in Week 3. The Browns are
averaging 14 points per game (No. 24 in the NFL) through Week 2,
while the Colts are averaging only 11 points per contest (No. 27).
The Colts remain without franchise QB Andrew Luck, and they would
be best served to build a game plan around veteran RB Frank Gore.
The 34-year-old has 13,153 career rushing yards and needs 107 to
move past Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (13,259 yards) for seventh
in league history. The seven players ahead of Gore on the rushing
list, which is led by Emmitt Smith (18,355 yards), all are
enshrined in Canton.
Cleveland also will be best-suited to craft a careful ground attack
and take the pressure off rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. Browns
running back Isaiah Crowell has rushed for only 70 yards in his
first two contests, but coaches must stay patient and continue to
feed him the ball. Crowell compiled 1,271 yards from scrimmage a
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Browns QB DeShone Kizer vs. Colts SS Matthias Farley. Kizer has
to be aware of Farley, his former teammate on the Notre Dame
Fighting Irish, on every snap. Farley leads the Colts with 22
tackles. He has no interceptions, but he always seems to be around
the ball. Kizer threw three interceptions last week, and Farley
could be looking for a pick.
–Colts TE Jack Doyle vs. Browns LBs Christian Kirksey and James
Burgess Jr. Pittsburgh Steelers TE Jesse James caught two touchdown
passes against the Browns in the opener, and Ravens tight end Ben
Watson caught eight passes last week. Doyle leads the Colts with 10
catches. Any defender assigned to Doyle can expect to be targeted
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: WR Rashard Higgins. The Browns’ athletic
22-year-old receiver out of Colorado State hauled in seven passes
for 95 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2. Two passes
intended for him were intercepted, which means that he and rookie
QB DeShone Kizer need to improve their timing. However, Higgins
proved during the game that he is able to get separation, which is
something the Browns’ other receivers lack. As a fifth-round pick
in 2016, Higgins caught only six passes for 77 yards during his
rookie season. He already has exceeded those totals in Year 2, and
he will have an opportunity to build upon his numbers against a
below-average Colts defense.
FAST FACTS: Colts coach Chuck Pagano needs one more win to reach 50
in his career. … The Browns opened the week as a favorite on the
road for the first time since 2015. … Colts RB Frank Gore needs
11 more carries to become the ninth player in NFL history to notch
3,000 career rushes. Gore also needs one rushing touchdown to tie
Pete Johnson (76) for No. 22 on the league’s all-time list. …
Browns rookie DE Myles Garrett is no longer in a walking boot
because of a high ankle sprain, but it is unlikely that he will
make his debut this week. … Colts WR T.Y. Hilton needs 73
receiving yards to surpass Lenny Moore (6,039) for fourth in the
franchise record books.
PREDICTION: Expect a hard-fought game between two teams desperate
to avoid an 0-3 start. Home-field advantage counts for something in
these types of contests. So does a reliable kicker in Adam
OUR PICK: Colts, 24-21.