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It’s Separation Sunday in Cleveland. Are the Browns Really Contenders?

The Cleveland Browns come into this game following a 49-38 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington. With their best start since 2001, the Browns look to go out and prove to the rest of the league, that yes, Baker Mayfield and company are for real.

The Indianapolis Colts come into the game with an identical 3-1 record. Their defense has been exceptional as they lead the league in defensive yardage. They have held opponents to 236-yards per game. With that being said, the Colts have played a pretty weak early season schedule. The Colts opponents so far this year have been Jacksonville, the Jets, Minnesota, and the Bears. Not exactly the toughest opponents to begin the season. The Colts are absolutely beatable, but so are the Browns. Can the Browns get past the Colts and start the season 4-1 for the first time in 26 years? There are three things that the Browns have to do to take a huge step forward.

Final Injury Report for Both Teams:

Browns

  • Out: Greedy Williams (CB), Tae Davis (LB), Larry Ogunjobi (Interior D-Line)
  • Questionable: Adrian Clayborn (DE), Karl Joseph (S)

Colts

  • Out: Darius Leonard (LB), Anthony Castonzo (LT),
  • Questionable: Anthony Walker (LB)

Keys to Success for the Browns:

  1. Keep Running the Ball: Yes, Nick Chubb is going to be out for a couple weeks. However, as we saw last week in Dallas, the backs behind him are more than capable. Kareem Hunt should get the bulk of the carries, but D’Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard will get the ball as well. Hunt is not on the same level as Chubb, however he’s very quick, takes care of the ball, and is superb catching passes out of the backfield. The Colts come into the game boasting the best run defense in the NFL. They are led up front by off-season pick up DeForest Buckner, who has exceeded expectations already. Darius Leonard, who has been ruled out of the game, is a big loss for the Colts. Besides Buckner, Darius was probably their second best defender. Look for the Browns to stick to the run, which opens up their play-action passing attack. Without Chubb, the offense will not look as elite, but the three-headed monster of Hunt, Johnson, and Hilliard will get their touches. The Browns have averaged over 200-rushing yards per game, and the offensive line has been spectacular. Keep your eye on right guard Wyatt Teller, and left guard Joel Bitonio. Those two interior linemen control how well the Browns are on the ground. Wyatt Davis is having a breakout year, as he is the highest rated guard in the NFL. (PFF)
  2. Win the Turnover Battle: Both teams come into this game with very good turnover ratio. The Colts are ranked fifth in the NFL with a turnover ratio of +4. Most of the Colt’s turnovers have been interceptions, as they have two corners who have been locking down receivers all year. Former Brown, T.J. Carrie and his partner in crime, Xavier Rhodes have two interceptions each, which is very good considering how early in the season we are. Baker Mayfield needs to be patient and not force throws. Last week Mayfield was 19/30 for 165-yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. With Chubb out, the Browns may need to lean on the pass just a little bit more. Mayfield has thrown seven touchdowns this year to only two interceptions, which is a huge step forward for the gunslinger out of Oklahoma. The Browns, on the other hand, lead the league in turnover differential at +6. Myles Garrett has forced three of those turnovers and recovered two of them. Without Larry Ogunjobi, Cleveland may choose to line Garrett up on the inside, where he is a nightmare for interior offensive lineman. If the Browns do put Garrett on the inside, one match up to look at is Garrett versus Quenton Nelson.
  3. Get the Ball to Your Play-makers Early and Often: Yes, the Colts defense is very good, even without Darius Leonard. However, with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt, Myles Garrett, and Denzel Ward, the Browns are just better on paper. In the past that might have been a problem. Last year the Browns had those same play-makers, minus Hooper, but couldn’t find ways to get them the ball. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive-coordinator Alex Van Pelt, have called three straight near perfect games. Pound the rock, pound it again, then hit them over the top with play-action. This year feels very different than least year. The Browns know they are good, and they finally have a coaches’ room that can get them the ball. Indianapolis has some play-makers as well in T.Y Hilton, Phillip Rivers, and DeForest Buckner. In this close match-up of 3-1 teams, the Browns just have more guys that can shine. In fact, this game could very possibly come down to who’s stars shine brighter.

Prediction: Browns 31 – Colts 27

Prop Bets:

  • Browns by 6 or More (+170)
  • Baker Mayfield Rush Yards Over 7.5 (+120
  • Browns Score First (+100)
  • Phillip Rivers TD Passes Over 1.5 (-115)
Browns Hot Minute

Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE

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