The Indianapolis Colts and their second-ranked defense come to Cleveland to take on the Cleveland Browns’ number one rushing attack. The Browns are 3-1 for the first time since 2011 and will face the Philip Rivers led Colts Sunday at 4:25 pm. No matter how you sell it, Sunday is a big game for the Browns, and it is time for the keys to victory.
Turnover free football
The Colts come in sporting the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. They get after the quarterback with a 10.7% quarterback knockdown rate (eighth in the NFL) and a 27.9% pressure rate (sixth in the NFL) per Pro Football Reference.
All of this pressure has led to ten sacks and created seven interceptions. This will test the growth we have seen in Baker Mayfield Sunday. He has struggled while under pressure, and this defense will come at him. He will need to stay in the pocket and deliver when asked without making any mistakes.
Stefanski will likely look to move the pocket and get Mayfield outside the pocket a little more than he has Sunday.
Pound that front
This is the number one rushing attack, and even without Nick Chubb, you have to attack the Colts front with the run. Coach Stefanski has built this team along with Andrew Berry to pound the football. It does not matter how good the opposing defense is. To take the next step, you come in and impose your will with your best asset.
They will need to use play action and other offensive sets to keep the Colts guessing but the key is to not get away from the identity that has been established. Kareem Hunt is still in this backfield and as talented as anyone. D’Ernest Johnson had a nice day against the Cowboys. The Colts are the best team the Browns have faced since week one, don’t get away from who you are to quickly.
Make the play
Philip Rivers has been an interception machine with 23 of them in his last 20 games. This defense is staying alive by taking the ball away and must continue to force turnovers if the Browns are to win this game. Rivers will likely give the Browns a chance to make a big play, and the secondary must be prepared to take advantage of that. Again, this defense needs to cause turnovers to be effective.
Continue stopping the run
The Colts have averaged 115.25 yards a game on the ground. Not a great number, but they have the fourth-most rushing attempts in the NFL. They will try to establish the run, and the defensive front must be ready once again. With Larry Ogunjobi not practicing all week and both Sheldon Richardson and Adrian Clayborn, limited depth may be tested Sunday.
Losing Ogunjobi would be the biggest loss as he has been excellent this year against the run. With a Pro Football Focus grade over 80 on the year, he is one of their top ten graded run defenders.
(Bonus Key)Special teams and turnovers
Facing a defense this good starting position is going to be a big factor in getting points on the board. The Browns special teams has been pretty quiet so far this season so this would be a nice game to see something out of them. The offense is up against the best defense they have seen this season so a short field caused by turnovers or a big play or two on special teams could be the difference maker in the end.
Prediction: 26-20 The Browns take down the Colts to go 4-1
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